A charge of criminal negligence causing death against an auto
mechanic may proceed, the Ontario Court of Appeal has decided,
holding that it was possible that a reasonable jury could find that
the mechanic was a "significant contributing cause" of a
The case illustrates that workers – perhaps particularly
those who repair or operate vehicles or equipment – could
face criminal charges if they are negligent and the negligence
causes injury or death.
The mechanic issued a Safety Standards Certificate to the
purchaser of a 17-year-old pickup truck. The Safety Standards
Certificate was required to complete the transfer of
ownership. There was evidence that the mechanic did not
conduct the legally-required inspection of the truck. A month
later, the truck was involved in an accident in which the driver
lost control and collided with an oncoming vehicle driven by the
young woman, who died as a result of the accident.
There was evidence at a preliminary inquiry that the truck would
not have passed a safety inspection and that there was a serious
defect in the truck's steering mechanism ("excessive free
play" in the steering wheel). The appeal court noted
that an O.P.P. accident reconstructionist concluded that the
steering defect pre-dated the collision and would cause the driver
to over-correct in a panic situation, leading to a loss of control
and further over-steering. Also, there was evidence that the truck
"fishtailed" before the collision; the previous owner had
testified that the steering wheel wandered" and had "a
little bit of play"; there was testimony that the purchaser of
the truck was planning on installing a new steering shaft; and
there was testimony that both the driver and the purchaser thought
to blame the accident on the steering shortly after the
The Ontario Court of Appeal therefore concluded that a
reasonable jury could find that the mechanic was a significant
contributing factor to the death and that the mechanic was
therefore guilty of criminal negligence causing death. Therefore,
the charge of criminal negligence causing death should proceed to a
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