Written by Dylan Nadeau, NCA Candidate

The Supreme Court of Canada

In celebration of the centennial year of Daniel & Partners LLP, we will be looking at our firm’s involvement in notable cases.  This week we are looking at the case of Jordan House Ltd. v. Menow.  Harry J Daniel & J. R. Barr acted as counsel for the Plaintiff when the case was initially heard at the Ontario High Court of Justice in 1969. The firm, then known as ‘Fleming, Harris, Barr, Hildebrand, Geiger & Daniel’, remained as ‘solicitors for the plaintiff’ when the case was argued at the Supreme Court by lawyers from outside the firm (B.J. MacKinnon, Q.C, and Thomas Dunne, who also acted for the plaintiff at the Court of Appeal).

This case reached the Supreme Court of Canada in 1974, which ruled in favour of the plaintiff.  It created a significant precedent in the law of duty of care in Canada, in particular when considering the relationship between an establishment which serves alcohol and their patrons.

            On January 18, 1968, the plaintiff, John James Menow, was ejected from the beverage room of the Jordan House Hotel (the defendant) when he became intoxicated and began disturbing other costumers. The Jordan House Hotel fronted a busy two-lane highway and Mr. Menow was subsequently hit and seriously injured by a motor vehicle.  

            The ruling at the initial trial and at both appeals found that the hotel was for the injuries Menow sustained.   This was later confirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada, which also found that the defendant/apellant owed a duty of care to Mr. Menow when they ejected him while he was under the influence of alcohol. But what is important to note are the specific facts of this case. As Judge Laskin noted later in his judgement at the Supreme Court, they key issue surround the hotel’s liability was the knowledge that the hotel and its employees had of the plaintiff when they removed him from the premise. He stated:

 “I would [not] impose a duty on every tavern-owner to act as a watch dog for all patrons who enter his place of business and drink to excess. A great deal turns on the knowledge of the operator (or his employees) of the patron and his condition where the issue of liability in negligence for injuries suffered by the patron.”

            The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to dismiss the appeal for a second time highlights the numerous examples of knowledge the hotel and its employees had of the plaintiff and how that knowledge created a scenario where they owed a duty of care to Mr. Menow when he left the hotel.

            First, Menow was known to have a limited capacity for consuming alcohol. The plaintiff frequented the hotel’s beverage room often where he would often drink to excess and act irresponsibly. This was such a reoccurring issue that the hotel operator even told his employees not to serve Mr. Menow if he was not accompanied by a responsible person.

            Secondly, when the plaintiff left the hotel, the employees knew he was intoxicated and could not take care of himself. They were also aware that he would have to walk home along the busy highway, but the hotel’s employees did not arrange for a safe way for Mr. Menow to travel home.

            As a result, the Supreme Court ruled that, “the hotel was vicariously liable for the actions of its employees who were in breach of a common law duty of care not to eject Menow as they did when they knew or ought to have known that he would thereby be placed in a position of danger to his personal safety.”

            This case is as one example of the important legal work our firm has done over the last 100 years, not only in the Niagara community but also in the wider Canadian legal landscape.

            We also hope Jordan House Ltd. v. Menow will act as reminder for those of you planning on enjoying a night out involving alcohol to always arrange for a safe way home.

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