Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia

Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia

February 06, 2014 17:19 ET

Dangerous Law Dissuades Designated Drivers

BC Ruling Leaves Responsible Citizens With a Disincentive to Do the Right Thing

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwired - Feb. 6, 2014) - A court ruling this week leaves responsible citizens with a disincentive to do the right thing, but it is a ruling even the judge finds troubling.

The case arose from a fatal car crash (July 8, 2006) in which a drunk passenger grabbed the wheel of the car being operated by a sober driver. In this case, the driver was Marnetta Felix. She was the designated driver. As Ms. Felix was driving, Kevin Hearne, her boyfriend, grabbed the wheel, causing her to lose control of the car, which left the highway and went into a rollover crash. Mr. Hearne was killed. Ms. Felix, a 44-year-old mother of two, sustained significant injuries.

In 2011, Ms. Felix was awarded $791,950 in damages and $71,292 in costs against Mr. Hearne's estate. Subsequently, in a 2012 court hearing, she sought to obtain what was owed to her by ICBC. Her lawyers argued that she should be compensated for injuries through third-party liability coverage. The judge agreed, but also concluded that Ms. Felix was not covered by the current regulation because the statute explicitly refers to a passenger who causes injury or death to a person not occupying the vehicle - and therefore excludes a situation where a passenger grabs the wheel and causes the crash.

"Whether this was an unintended consequence of the law or not, the law should be changed," explained Richard Parsons, president of the Trial Lawyers Association of BC. "It's possible the BC Court of Appeal would interpret this differently. Barring that, the BC Government should act to change the regulations, which would then clarify this important matter for ICBC, its customers and the public in general - drivers and passengers."

Link to the Feb. 3, 2014 Court Ruling:

Contact Information

  • Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia
    Bentley Doyle
    604-682-5343 / 1-888-558-5222