Fatal car crash leads to civil suit

Supreme Court hears claim from survivor of 2012 Salt Spring incident

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A 2012 tragedy involving two teens on Salt Spring has become the basis for a potentially precedent-setting case now underway in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver.

In a civil trial that began last Wednesday, Calder McCormick, 24, is arguing that Stephen and Lidia Pearson are liable for the injuries he sustained in a car crash after leaving a party at their house. McCormick was 17 at the time of the incident and a passenger in the car. The driver, 18-year-old Ryan Plambeck, was killed in the crash.

Court documents filed by McCormick state that on Sept. 15, 2012 he and Plambeck had attended a party on Epron Road, which the Pearsons had hosted for “minor aged guests.” The Pearsons’ two daughters were teenagers at the time.

The outcome of the case is being closely watched as one that could set the standard for social host liability in B.C. when it comes to underage guests.

McCormick alleges the Pearsons encouraged and facilitated underage drinking, and claims they should have prevented Plambeck and himself from leaving or else ensured they got home safely. As hosts of the party, the lawsuit states the Pearsons “entered into a special relationship with their minor-aged guests and other guests . . . to supervise or alternately arrange for proper or adequate supervision and maintain control of the party and owed a duty of care.”

The civil suit further states the Pearsons knew or should have known about an uninsured Subaru parked in the neighbourhood with the keys inside, a vehicle which Plambeck drove away and soon after fatally crashed on a sharp bend of North End Road.

Neither teen was wearing a seat belt. Plambeck’s blood alcohol level was determined to have been well over the legal limit and it is alleged he was texting while driving.

The Pearsons argue in turn that McCormick was old enough to make decisions about alcohol use.

The response states: “At the material date, the plaintiff was 17 years of age and in Grade 11. He was of an age and experience to appreciate the risk of his choice to consume alcohol, and his decision to consume alcohol/other substances was voluntary. His age and experience was such to leave him accountable and responsible for his choices not withstanding his legal standing as a minor.”

If this was not the case, the response claims parents Mike McCormick and Corrie Jones were ultimately responsible for ensuring their son got home safely. The Pearsons claim they were aware of Calder’s previous alcohol use and should have made plans to get him home, and/or followed up when his twin brother arrived home safely without him.

The Pearsons further deny they had any way of knowing that Plambeck and McCormick would take a car that was parked on a Byron Road property.

McCormick claims his injuries have had a life-altering impact including lasting brain damage. They have impaired his ability to make an income and caused pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. Ongoing expenses for medical care and treatment are expected.

The civil suit had initially named Plambeck as well as members of the Coupland family who owned the Subaru and Byron Road property as defendants. The Couplands were removed from the suit before the trial started for an alternate resolution. It was reported last week that McCormick had agreed to a settlement with Plambeck’s estate.

The hearing is expected to continue for several more days.

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