Précis: The operator of a vessel involved in a collision is not precluded from denying liability where his guilty plea was entered for economic reasons. He was nevertheless found liable.
Facts:The plaintiff was a passenger in a small pleasure craft. She suffered personal injuries when a second pleasure craft collided with the boat in which she was riding. The collision occurred at night. The operator of the second boat was charged with dangerous operation of a vessel and pleaded guilty to the charge. In his defence to this civil action, the operator of the second boat denied he was involved in the collision.
Decision:Judgment for the plaintiff.
Held:The defendant has testified that he pleaded guilty to the criminal charge to avoid having to take additional time off work to defend the charge. In these circumstances, the defendant’s guilty plea is not determinative of civil liability. Nevertheless, based on the testimony of the witnesses, it is more likely than not that the defendant was the operator of the second boat and is liable for the injuries suffered by the plaintiff. The defendant’s failure to call his spouse, who was with him in his boat on the night of the accident, as a witness justifies the drawing of an adverse inference.