and S was very intoxicated. S sat in the front passenger seat. His seat belt was fastened when he left the restaurant. Y stopped at one point to allow one of the rear
passengers to leave the cab briefly to throw up. Some time later, the cab was
struck by a vehicle that drove through a stop sign. S was seriously injured. By the
time of the accident, his seat belt was unbuckled. His injuries would have been less
serious had he been wearing the seat belt. Y did not cause or contribute to the
accident. S sued Y and others. By the time the action got to trial, the only issue to
be decided was Y’s liability. S alleged that Y owed a duty of care to ensure that he
buckled his seat belt and kept it buckled during the fare. That duty of care was
said to arise because it was apparent to Y that S was intoxicated, and therefore
vulnerable and unable to look after himself.
Held, Y had no duty of care.
Canadian courts have not previously recognized a duty of care owed by a taxi
driver to a visibly intoxicated (or otherwise vulnerable) adult passenger. S failed to
establish that a prima facie duty of care existed in this case. It was reasonably
foreseeable that S would be injured, or more seriously injured, as a result of not
wearing a seat belt in the taxi cab. However, imposing a positive duty to ensure
that adult intoxicated passengers are and remain buckled would be an unnecessary and unprincipled extension of the scope of any duty which a taxi driver owes
to adult intoxicated passengers. Moreover, S and Y were not in a sufficiently proximate relationship to warrant the imposition of a duty of care. There was no evidence that S expected that Y would protect him from injury by ensuring that
he was and remained buckled during the fare, and no evidence of any representation by Y that he would take steps to protect S from injury by ensuring that
he wore a seat belt. There was no evidence that S reasonably relied on Y to ensure
that he wore a seat belt, and reasonable reliance could not be inferred from
Even if a prima facie duty of care had been established, it would be negated by
residual policy considerations. The legislature expressly chose not to make
drivers responsible for ensuring that adult passengers buckle their seat belts.
Imposing a common law duty would be inconsistent with that choice. A taxi cab
driver owes no duty of care to a sober adult passenger. There is no reasonable
basis for imposing a duty of care because an adult passenger chooses to become
intoxicated. An injured passenger already has a remedy against a driver
who negligently causes a motor vehicle accident. Carrying out the proposed duty
of care would be unmanageable for taxi drivers, and would distract them
from driving safely. Moreover, if a cab driver was required to make a “
vulnerability” assessment of every adult passenger before accepting a fare, that might
create a disincentive for cab drivers to pick up intoxicated passengers. It is not
in society’s interest to create an impediment to intoxicated adults taking a taxi
cab to their destination.
If the proposed duty of care did exist, it would be fulfilled by advising an intoxicated passenger to buckle his or her seat belt at the beginning of the fare. Y’s
failure to do so in this case caused no injury since S was in fact buckled when the
cab left the restaurant. No reasonable standard of care would have required Y to
ensure that S continued to use the seat belt throughout the fare.
Anns v. Merton London Borough Council,  A.C. 728,  UKHL 4,
 2 All E.R. 492,  2 W.L.R. 1024 (H.L.); Cooper v. Hobart, 
3 S.C.R. 537,  S.C.J. No. 76, 2001 SCC 79, 206 D.L.R. (4th) 193, 277 N.R.
113,  1 W.W.R. 221, J.E. 2001-2153, 160 B.C.A.C. 268, 96 B.C.L.R. (3d) 36,
8 C.C.L. T. (3d) 26, REJB 2001-26862, 110 A.C. W.S. (3d) 943, apld