Vancouver’s Cambie Bar & Grill has been found partially liable in a drunk driving incident in Port Moody that left a man with brain damage.
The judgement in BC Supreme Court means the Cambie Malone’s Corporation, which operates the pub where Bradley Rockwell had been drinking on the afternoon of February 17, 2012, is 25% responsible for the injuries suffered by Stuart Widdowson, who was hit while walking home from work.
“The responsibility for damages in commercial host cases should lie primarily with the drunk driver and particularly so where… the driver’s conduct is completely inexcusable and resulted in reckless endangerment of the public,” wrote Justice Nigel Kent in his reasons for judgement. “The pub was clearly negligent but there is no proof of any deliberate disregard of its obligations.”
Rockwell and a few co-workers met at the Cambie at about 12:30 p.m. after leaving a downtown job site. Although each provided different estimates of how much alcohol they drank, Kent concluded Rockwell had consumed at least five to six drinks, including beer and liquor, and that he was “significantly intoxicated” by the time he and co-worker Kevin Sahanovitch left at about 2:30 p.m.
Rockwell drove along Hastings Street and Barnet Highway, stopping at a beer and wine store so Sahanovitch could buy more alcohol, toward his Port Moody home. The pair stopped there for about 30 minutes, where they drank more vodka, before they left so that Rockwell could drive Sahanovitch to Coquitlam Centre mall, where he was to meet his mother.
But as Rockwell lost control on Guildford Way, fishtailing in the rain, he drove up on to the sidewalk where he hit Widdowson.
Evidence from a Coquitlam RCMP officer described Rockwell as exuding a strong odour of alcohol, with slurred speech that was rambling and profane. He was, in Kent’s words, “falling-down drunk.”
“When advised about his right to counsel, Rockwell stated he wanted to speak with Ozzy Osbourne and started to play air guitar with his hands,” according to the officer’s testimony.
Evidence from a blood-alcohol expert found Rockwell would have had a reading of .334 at the time of the accident, more than four times the legal limit.
The question at issue, however, was when and where Rockwell consumed the alcohol necessary to achieve that level of intoxication.
Unlike Ontario, B.C. does not have specific legislation regarding commercial host liability.
The Liquor Control and Licensing Act imposes obligations on an establishment that require staff to not sell or give liquor to an intoxicated person, and must not permit someone to become intoxicated.
Precedent cases cited by Kent in his judgement draw on the duty of care owed to a patron, the differences between a social and commercial host and the responsibility of a commercial host to ensure intoxicated patrons do not cause injury to themselves or to others once they leave the premises.
That Rockwell stopped at home before the accident did not end the host’s duty of care, Kent concluded. The pub’s breach of duty led to Rockwell being highly intoxicated, and that intoxication still existed at the time of the accident.
Rockwell was found to be 75% responsible for Widdowson’s injuries. A trial to determine the amount of those damages will take place in January 2018.