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Stewart v Pettie, [1995] 1 SCR 131 (Link)


Stewarts and Petties were having dinner and drinks at the Mayfield dinner theatre. Mr Stewart and Mr Pettie drank heavily; Mrs Stewart and Mrs Pettie did not drink. After the show, Mr Pettie was driving everyone home when he got into an accident. As a result, Mrs Stewart, who was not wearing a seat belt, struck her head rendering her quadriplegic

At trial: Stewarts sued the Petties for negligence, settled; judge found Pettie`s driving negligent but not grossly negligent. Stewarts sued the City, settled. Stewarts sued the dinner theatre commercial host, lost. Also, court found 25% against Mrs Stewart for contributory negligence (no seatbelt)

On appeal: Found Mayfield negligent. Did not change trial judge’s apportionment or finding of contributory negligence or gross negligence issue.
** Mayfield appealed
** Stewarts appealed finding that Pettie was not grossly negligent


1. Did Mayfield meet the standard of care required of a vendor of alcohol, or was it negligent in failing to take any steps to ensure that Pettie did not drive after leaving?

Secondary issues if appeal is dismissed:
** 2. Did the trial judge and the court of appeal make a proper determination and assessment on the plaintiff’s contributory negligence?
** 3. Did the trial judge err in finding that Pettie was not grossly negligent? (Necessary to ask because of legislative provisions)


Alcohol-serving establishments have a duty of care to their intoxicated patrons and third parties who may be injured by their intoxicated patrons.
** Serving people past the point of intoxication does not in and of itself pose a foreseeable risk, there must be an additional risk factor.


Yes, Mayfield met the standard of care required of a vendor of alcohol.
** But this is a novel proposal of a duty of care; where the plaintiff is not the person who became inebriated in the defendant’s establishment.

** Must be a sufficiently close relationship between the parties (proximity)
** Are there any considerations that negate or limit the duty of care? (in terms of (a) the scope of the duty; (b) the class of persons to whom it is owed; or (c) the damages to which a breach of it may give rise?
** Refers to Jordan v. Menow
*** That duty of care exists between alcohol-serving establishments and their patrons who become intoxicated, with the result that they are unable to look after themselves.
*** Well-known patron; was intoxicated; was ejected; struck by car.
** The risk to third parties from the patron’s intoxicated driving is real and foreseeable
** There was sufficient proximity between Mayfield and Gillian Stewart
** Noted:
*** Didn’t matter whether plaintiff was a passenger or the driver of another car; Duty arises because plaintiff is a member of a class of persons who could be expected to be on the highway (it is the CLASS OF PERSONS to whom the duty is owed)
*** Important not to conflate the duty of care and the standard of care. Question of duty exists as a question of the relationship between the parties; it is not about conduct. Conduct question concerns the "standard of care".
** ThereforeMayfield did have a duty of care to third parties who can be expected to use the highways

** Liability does not necessarily result merely because the Mayfield over-served Pettie
*** Just because a person is getting intoxicated does not, by itself, lead to any risk of harm to third parts
*** It is only if there is a foreseeable risk of harm to the patron or to a third party that Mayfield would be required to take action
** It is illegal to serve someone who is apparently intoxicated. But in this case, Pettie did not exhibit that behaviour. Also, violation of legislation, by itself, does not ground liability.
** There is increasingly a duty to act when there is a “special relationship” between the parties. The common thread: one is under a duty not to place another person in a position where it is foreseeable that the person could suffer injury.
** No one at Mayfield asked Pettie if he was ok to drive. For Mayfield to avoid liability, it will have to be on the basis that, on the facts of this case, Mayfield had no obligation to take any positive steps to ensure that Pettie didn’t drive
** There is a “special relationship” between vendors of alcohol and the motoring public
*** BUT, more than that is needed to permit the imposition of a positive obligation to act. The host must consider other relevant factors in deciding whether positive steps are necessary. The key is the foreseeability of risk. Where no risk is foreseeable, no action is required (even with the special relationship).
*** In this case, there were two sober people. So what would the reasonable person have done in Mayfield’s place?
** Didn’t matter that Pettie didn’t exhibit signs of intoxication – the waitress kept a tab of how many drinks were served
** But it does matter that there were two sober people present
*** As per Menow, if the bar puts a drunk person out, the reasonable thing to do would be to call his wife to take him home
*** In the case at bar, the wife who is sober is already there, and also knows how much he had to drink.
*** Therefore it is not reasonable to suggest that Mayfield in this case had to do more
*** Therefore, Mayfield did not breach the duty of care they owed to Gillian Stewart
** Description of the reasonable person (but it was a vague definition)

** Lack of proof of causation
** Gillian Stewart and Shelley Pettie deliberated in the parking lot about whether Stuart Pettie was able to drive. Therefore, we can’t say whether it would have mattered had the Mayfield intervened (evidentiary gap). Their decision to let Pettie drive was freely made, and court should not interfere with such personal autonomy

Since Mayfield has no liability; court did not talk about Gillian’s contributory negligence or Pettie’s driving (negligent or grossly negligent)


Court allowed the appeal, dismissing the action against Mayfield.
Court dismissed the cross-appeal.

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