Conrad v. Snair

In Collisions and Ships on (Updated )

This case involved a collision at night between a Boston Whaler and an anchored unlit sailboat. As a result of the collision, a passenger of the Boston Whaler was seriously injured. The issues concerned the liability for the collision, contributory negligence, and limitation of liability. Both the trial Judge and the Court of Appeal found that the driver of the Boston Whaler was entirely at fault for the collision. The driver was found to have been traveling at an excessive rate of speed and failed to maintain a proper lookout. With respect to the sailboat, the trial Judge and the Court of Appeal held that there was no presumption of fault because of the failure to exhibit an anchor light. They further found that there was a local custom to not display anchor lights. The driver of the Boston Whaler also argued that his passenger was contributorily negligent in that she knew of his propensity to drive his boat in a particular manner. The Court of Appeal held that even if the master was known to be reckless, that would be an insufficient basis for a finding of contributory negligence. Although in light of these findings, the Court of Appeal did not need to decide whether contributory negligence on the part of the plaintiff would be a complete bar to damages, it nevertheless gave the opinion that if the Plaintiff had been negligent, the Provincial contributory negligence statute would apply to apportion damages. Finally, the driver of the Boston Whaler argued that he was entitled to limit his liability under the Canada Shipping Act because the accident occurred while he was acting in his capacity as master and not owner of the vessel. In lengthy reasons the Court of Appeal analyzed the problems that arise where the master is also the owner. Ultimately, the Court agreed with the trial Judge that the owner/master of the Boston Whaler was at fault as owner in failing to ensure his alter ego, the master, traveled at a safe speed.