Holman v. Oberg

In Collisions and Ships on (Updated )

Précis: The owner of a vessel is not vicariously liable for the negligence of the operator absent actual fault or privity.

Facts:The plaintiff, a 28 year old man, took a pontoon boat owned by his parents out onto a lake at night to go for a swim. While on the lake but while drifting the pontoon boat was hit by a boat owned by the first defendant and operated by the second defendant. The plaintiff was injured in the collision. At the time, the lights of the pontoon boat were not working, to the knowledge of the plaintiff but not to the knowledge of his parents. The plaintiff commenced this proceeding against the two defendants. The defendants then commenced a third party claim against the parents, the owners of the pontoon boat. This was an application for summary judgment on the third party claim.

Decision:The third party claim is dismissed.

Held:Although the evidence is somewhat unclear, it is assumed that the pontoon boat did not meet the lighting requirements of the Canada Shipping Act, 2001 and that the collision occurred in full darkness. Notwithstanding these assumptions, the parents did not know the navigation lights were not working and there was “no actual fault or privity” on their part. There is no vicarious liability under maritime law in the absence of actual fault or privity on the part of the owner.