With the warm weather winding down, many who own waterfront properties and recreational vehicles want to make the most of the remaining sunny days. For many in Ontario, boating and other water activities are a beloved pastime for those seeking an escape from the city. However, as with any recreational activity, boating has its fair share of risks, and accidents can happen anytime. With potentially severe consequences, knowing your rights and understanding the legal aspects of personal injury claims against boat charters and owners is essential.

This blog will explore the intricacies of boating accidents, including boat charters and third-party claims. We also discuss a recent decision of the Ontario Superior Court, in which a plaintiff sustained serious injuries after falling while disembarking a chartered houseboat.

Boating Accident Risks in Ontario

Regardless of the type of vehicle or vessel, recreational accidents can result in serious injuries or death. However, regarding boating accidents, several factors can be at play. Whether your accident was due to another person’s negligence or defective equipment, it is essential to consult a trusted personal injury lawyer to understand your legal rights to compensation.

Plaintiff Injured While Disembarking From Houseboat

A boat injury was at the centre of the Ontario Superior Court’s recent decision in Czarneski v. Floating Lodges of Sioux Narrows et al. On July 3, 2018, the plaintiffs were guests vacationing on a houseboat owned by the defendant and chartered by a third party (“ES”). The wooden plank broke when disembarking from the boat, and one of the plaintiffs fell into the water. He sustained serious injuries to his foot and knee, including a ruptured patellar tendon. He was stabilized at a local hospital and received surgery upon his return to the United States.

The plaintiff was required to use a wheelchair, crutches, and a cane before he was able to walk unaided by the end of 2018. He was off of work for over three months from his family’s construction company, and he was required to undergo extensive physiotherapy.

Third-Party Claim Commenced Against Person Who Chartered Boat

Beyond the plaintiff’s claim for compensation relating to his physical injuries and out-of-pocket expenses, a claim was also advanced by the plaintiff’s family members under the Family Law Act for loss of care, guidance, and companionship. The plaintiffs settled their personal injury claim against the defendant for $175,000 inclusive of costs. The defendant subsequently commenced a claim against the third party, ES (who chartered the boat), for contribution and indemnity to the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries based on the charter contract.

The third-party claim alleged that ES, who was in “full possession and control of the vessel,” received a safety briefing from the defendant that included boarding and re-boarding procedures and safety equipment operation. The defendant stated that at the time of the injury, the planks were improperly placed along the side of the houseboat “at a much higher angle than intended,” which led to the plank breaking. Further, the plaintiffs alleged that ES did not provide them with a safety briefing of the vessel from ES. Consequently, the third-party claim alleged that ES was negligent in:

  • Monitoring his passengers;
  • Inspecting the wooden gangplank;
  • Advising the passengers about alternate means of accessing the houseboat; and
  • Failing to dock the boat safely.

Third Party Fails to Defend Claim

The defendant’s counsel wrote to ES directly, indicating that he would risk default judgment if he failed to file a defence to the third-party claim. However, ES took no steps to defend the claim and was noted in default on April 10, 2021.

Under Rule 19.02(1)(a) of Ontario’s Rules of Civil Procedure, a defendant who is noted in default is deemed to “is deemed to admit the truth of all allegations of fact made in the statement of claim.” The defendant, therefore, moved for default judgment on September 22, 2022. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice found that the plaintiff’s examinations for discovery provided a basis for the negligence claim commenced against ES. Further, the charter agreement between ES and the defendant established that ES had agreed to indemnify the defendant against any claims.

Plaintiff’s Injuries Resulted in Loss of Competitive Advantage in Workforce

The Court acknowledged that at the time of the injury, the injured plaintiff was 40 years old and experienced significant changes in his life. He was a construction contractor who was, as a result of his injuries:

  • Limited to more sedentary work;
  • Lost competitive advantage in the workforce;
  • Unable to participate in bowling, which was his “major hobby”; and
  • Unable to engage in activities which required kneeling.

The adult plaintiffs also expressed that they had experienced “disruptions to their relationship which prompted them to seek counselling.”

Court Grants Judgment Against Third-Party Boat Charter

In support of this motion, the defendant filed a factum with several judgments assessing similar knee injuries. The Court was satisfied that the $175,000 claimed represented a “reasonable assessment of the plaintiff’s damages when general and special damages and Family Law Act claims for loss of care guidance and companionship of family members are considered.”

Accordingly, the Court issued a judgment against the third party, ES, for $175,000 and costs fixed at $10,000.

Campbell Litigation Provides Exceptional Advice to Plaintiffs Pursuing Boating Injury Claims in Kitchener-Waterloo

At Campbell Litigation, our personal injury team, led by Richard Campbell, regularly advises clients on various aspects of personal injury claims. Whether you or a loved one were injured in a car accident, boating accident, or slip and fall, our team is here to help. Navigating the claims process can be difficult, which is why we focus on claim management, allowing you to focus on your recovery. From whiplash and soft tissue injuries to spinal cord injuries to wrongful death claims, Campbell Litigation will help you recover the compensation to which you are entitled. To schedule a confidential consultation with a member of our team, call our office at 519-886-1204 or contact us online.