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Newton v Newton, 2003 BCCA 389.


Matthew, 2-year old, left at top of the stairs by Maria (mother). Maria tells Matthew to go see Darlene (grandmother) and walks away. Darlene starts climbing stairs. As Darlene approaches the top of the stairs, Matthew jumps at her. Darlene tries to catch Mathhew but falls down the stairs. Darlene cannot work anymore. Darlene sues Maria and John.


Is the foreseeability of whether Matthew could cause injury reasonable enough for Maria to owe a duty of care to Darlene?


Unpredictable behaviour with no intent to cause harm does not have a reasonable enough foreseeability to create a duty of care.

Unpredictable behaviour that causes harm is not foreseeable.


Matthew’s unpredictable behaviour was not foreseeable; there were no previous incidents of Matthew jumping at people, but also no previous incident where he had injured someone based on his activity of climbing the stairs.

Liability cannot lie solely on unpredictability.

Trial judge erred in saying that Maria had a duty of care to Darlene. Instead, Appeal judge distinguished between the duty owed by Maria to Matthew and the duty owed by Maria to Darlene. Maria was negligent to the child, but that’s not the question here.


Decision in favour of Maria -- no duty of care owed to Darlene.

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