Salt Spring parents found not liable for injuries from car crash after house party

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A B.C. Supreme Court judge has declared two Salt Spring Island parents who hosted a birthday party at their home on Epron Road in September 2012 where alcohol was consumed by minors are not legally responsible for injuries sustained in a fatal car crash that ensued afterward. 

In a civil trial that began in February, Calder McCormick, 25, argued that Stephen and Lidia Pearson were liable for the traumatic brain injury he sustained as a passenger after the driver, 18-year-old Ryan Plambeck, lost control of a vehicle stolen from a residence on Byron Road. Plambeck was killed in the crash on a sharp bend of North End Road. 

“As hosts, the Pearsons had to take all reasonable steps to minimize the risks of harm to their guests, including the plaintiff. The standard is one of reasonableness, not perfection,” wrote Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson in the ruling. “In my view, the standard proposed by the plaintiff is essentially one of perfection; anticipating all possibilities and avoiding any risks. That is simply not the way the world works… It is never possible to eliminate all risks, and the Pearsons were not required to do so.”

Hinkson also noted the Pearsons had taken the car keys from party guests who drove to their home and requested anyone who needed a ride to call their parents. 

“For those without rides who needed them, Ms. Pearson offered to drive them,” Hinkson wrote. “She eventually drove home five guests of the party… There is no evidence that any of the guests at the party, other than Ryan or the plaintiff, drove whilst impaired or rode with a driver who had been drinking.”

Neither teenager was wearing a seat belt, and Plambeck — who didn’t have a valid driver’s license — was determined to have consumed alcohol and cannabis that evening.

The civil suit had initially named Plambeck as well as the owners of the stolen vehicle as defendants, and sought nearly six million dollars for future care costs, future lost income earning capacity and other damages. An out-of-court settlement was reached between McCormick and Plambeck’s estate earlier this year.

McCormick, a former aspiring carpenter, now lives in an assisted living facility in Victoria and is unlikely to be able to support himself financially through employment for the rest of his life. 

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