The Standard of Care in Parking Lots

The Divisional Court recently considered an appeal involving the standard of care in a parking lot.  The primary conclusion is that the Highway Traffic Act does not generally apply to parking lots.

In Bossio v. Ramsahoye, 2013 ONSC 6878 (Div. Ct.), the parties were in a motor vehicle accident in a GO Train station parking lot.  The plaintiff was driving northbound in the centre lane of the parking lot, and the defendant was westbound in one of several exit lanes.  The trial judge's charge referred to the location of the accident as "a completely neutral intersection". The jury dismissed the action and the plaintiff appealed.

The plaintiff alleged that the trial judge erred by failing to instruct the jury that the common law duties of drivers approaching an uncontrolled intersection set out in the Highway Traffic Act would apply.  The defendant submitted that:

47. The absence of any reference to the Highway Traffic Act at first instance was not inadvertent. The Highway Traffic Act generally has no application to private parking lots. While the Act and the rules of road therein have been found to apply to certain peculiar parking lot situations (i.e. where the parking lot has a dual function as a thoroughfare, or where the Act provision at issue does not use the word “highway” or any word that incorporates the word “highway in its definition), this was not the case at hand and there was never any dispute as between the parties on this point.
48. The authority cited by the Plaintiff does not support her assertion that there are duties at common law equivalent to those found in the Highway Traffic Act, applicable where the Act is silent. At most, the “rules of the road” are distillations of what amounts to reasonable care and offer guidance to situations not covered by the Act.
49. Had the Highway Traffic Act applied, this would have been to the benefit of the Defendant, not the Plaintiff. Under the rules of the road, and specifically subsection 135(3) of the Act, when two vehicles enter an uncontrolled intersection of highways at approximately the same time, the driver on the right (the Defendant in this case) has the right of way.
The Divisional Court agreed with the defendant's submissions and dismissed the appeal.  

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