Dixon v. Leggat

In Collisions and Ships on (Updated )

A pleasure craft ran into a rock face in Lake Rosseau, Ontario. As a result of the accident two passengers were injured, one fatally. These actions were commenced against the owner of the pleasure craft and the driver of the pleasure craft, the owner’s brother. At trial, the trial Judge found the driver liable in that he was operating the vessel at an unsafe speed, failed to maintain a proper lookout, and failed to properly navigate the vessel. The trial Judge also held the Canada Shipping Act, in particular s. 566, created a statutory liability on the owner of the boat. On the issue of limitation, the trial Judge found that the operator could limit his liability but that the owner could not. The trial Judge’s finding with respect to the liability of the owner of the vessel was appealed. The Ontario Court of Appeal held that the trial Judge erred in his interpretation of s. 566 of the Canada Shipping Act. The Court of Appeal noted that this section merely provided for joint and several liability where there were joint tort-feasors and did not impose liability where none otherwise existed. The Court of Appeal then considered other sections of the Canada Shipping Act also referred to by the trial Judge but held that neither individually nor collectively did they impose a statutory liability on the owner of a boat. The Court of Appeal did, however, confirm that an owner could be liable on the principle of respondeat superior or on the basis of ordinary principles of tort law. In result, the Court of Appeal returned the case to the trial division for a new trial on the issue of the owner’s liability.