Canadian Underwriter

Why this towing company is on the hook for $2,000 in damages

August 3, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

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If your client dings another vehicle and informally offers $500 to the driver of the other vehicle, this does not limit your client’s liability to $500. This is one lesson from a British Columbia civil resolution tribunal ruling released last week.

Tabatha Scroggie’s vehicle was damaged when a tow truck backed into it. She took the tow truck’s owner, Earl’s Towing & Auto Wreckers Ltd., to the CRT. Scroggie sought an award of $2,005.58.

In Scroggie v. Earl’s Towing & Auto Wreckers Ltd., CRT member Chad McCarthy awarded Scroggie $1,989.22 in damages plus $125 in CRT fees.

Earl’s Towing did not deny one of its tow trucks backed into Scroggie’s vehicle. But the towing firm made a number of arguments denying liability. For one, Earl’s argued the accident damage was only worth about $400, including $300 for replacement parts.

“Earl’s says it was willing to give Ms. Scroggie $500 for the car damage, but I find this does not prove the value of the damage,” McCarthy wrote. He based his finding – that $1,989.22 is a reasonable estimate of the repair cost – on the $2,005.58 estimate from the collision centre that worked on Scroggie’s car. McCarthy deducted the amounts on the bill for cleaning in calculating slightly less than $2,000. The work included repairing the car’s right quarter panel, rear bumper and right taillamp assembly, plus painting.

Earl’s argued that Scroggie’s car is only worth about $1,000. But Earl’s provided no evidence – such as used vehicle pricing information, other repair estimates, parts and labour pricing information – to support its argument as to the value of Scroggie’s car or that the collision damage was only about $400, wrote McCarthy.

As evidence, Scroggie submitted an undated photo of her car from before the collision which shows no obvious rear end damage. She also submitted a post-collision photo showing a broken right taillight lens, a cracked right rear bumper, and cracked and broken body panels surrounding the right taillight lens.

Earl’s argued that Scroggie’s boyfriend was guiding the tow truck as it reversed and therefore the boyfriend should pay any damages. Scroggie’s boyfriend is not named as a party in the CRT dispute.

Part of Scroggie’s evidence was a video of the accident. That video briefly showed a person walking in front of the camera before the collision, but that person was facing away from the tow truck, McCarthy wrote. He found that Scroggie’s boyfriend did not communicate with the tow truck driver and did not provide any driving guidance.

“Having weighed the submitted evidence, I find that Ms. Scroggie’s car was positioned close behind the tow truck and was plainly there to be seen, yet the Earl’s driver reversed into the parked car,” wrote McCarthy. He cited B.C.’s Motor Vehicle Act, which says that a vehicle’s driver must not cause it to move backwards unless the movement can be safely made.

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