An Occupier’s Duty of Care cannot be Traced back to a Previous Owner
Aron Bookman and Trevor Morley of Carfra Lawton LLP successfully defended the previous owner of a house against an occupier’s liability claim which arose 15 years after the house was sold: Boyes v. Wong et al, 2016 BCSC 1085. The court found the current owners and occupier of the home equally at fault, but held that the previous owner (the defendant/third party Ryckman) had no duty to the infant plaintiff.
On August 24, 2007, Cora Boyes (10 months old) suffered an electrical shock when she put an energized electrical cord into her mouth. She suffered severe burns and life altering injuries. The electrical cord jutted out from the bottom of a cabinet which had been built in the premises in the 1980’s, by or for the owner family who resided in the house (“Ryckman”). The house was sold in 1992 to absentee owners who resided in Hong Kong and never stepped foot inside the house. From that point forward the house was rented to a number of tenants and managed by the sister of one of the owners.
At trial the defendant Ryckman argued that the plaintiff and defendants had not proven that the cabinet was constructed with the dangerous cord that injured Cora Boyes and that the cord was likely installed by a tenant after 1992 and before Cora Boyes and her family moved into the premises. Ms. Ryckman also argued that even if it had been proven that the cord was installed originally in the cabinet, and that the receptacle hidden under the cabinet was a hazard, a previous owner’s duty of care was limited to a duty to warn of any known hazards or hazards of which she ought to have known. The court accepted the defendant Ryckman’s arguments, and dismissed the claim against the defendant Ryckman, and awarded costs.