Law student succeeds in legal challenge

Lars, a current final year student, recently succeeded in a legal challenge after his car was towed in circumstances he felt to be unlawful. Lars has provided us with details of the legal process he went through and how his legal studies supported him with the claim:

What happened?

I went to visit a friend at his apartment, and parked in a visitor stall. There was no signage indicating that any passes had to be shown, and to my surprise I was leaving and found my vehicle gone! I picked up my vehicle from the towing company, and paid the fees. The following day, I came back to the apartment building to speak with the manager and was informed that passes were necessary and that they have a zero-tolerance policy for not displaying them. I explained the lack of signage stating these rules to them, but was ultimately denied compensation for the towing charges I had incurred. With no other options available, I filed a civil claim against the apartment building through the Civil Resolution Tribunal – the lowest ‘court’ in British Columbia, Canada. I was ultimately successful in my claim for recovering the towing charges I had paid because I was able to demonstrate to the tribunal that the apartment building negligently towed my vehicle.

Which areas of law did you think were concerned?

Originally, my focus was on the law of contract, since I was a visitor of the building and the rental agreement my friend had signed included provisions stating that tenants were liable for their visitors while on the property. However, during research it became clear to me that I was not party to, and could not be bound, by my friend’s rental agreement. This was also not a position where I had paid to park in the stall, so there was no contract between myself and the apartment building either. The last avenue to pursue this claim with was through the tort of trespass. I had to prove on a balance of probabilities that:

1. I reasonably believed I had consent (express or implied) to park on the property and thus was owed a duty of care;

2. The apartment building fell below the standard of care;

3. I sustained reasonably foreseeable damage as a result of the apartment building’s negligence

The lack of signage indicating that passes or other permission was necessary was my main line of argument to demonstrate that I had received implied consent. The tribunal decided that the apartment building had indeed given its implied consent for me to park in a visitor stall while visiting a tenant of the building; and their action of having my vehicle towed was decided to have fallen below the applicable standard of care. As  a result, I suffered foreseeable damages in the form of towing charges.

How did you find the tribunal process?

The tribunal process in British Columbia is quite novel in the fact that it allows for negotiation and mediation, while still retaining the ability for parties to bring the matter to a tribunal member for a binding decision if an agreement cannot be reached. The process takes place exclusively online, and the apartment building in my claim retained a strong stance that they were not liable and would not negotiate. From initiating my claim to receiving a binding decision, it took roughly 6 months, which I would say is relatively efficient for the services they provide. All things considered, the tribunal process was straightforward, allowed for the possibility of a peaceful resolution, and resulted in a legally binding decision.

How do you think your legal studies helped you with the dispute?

The law course at the University of Gloucestershire has been invaluable to me during this dispute – having a solid background of contract and tort law allowed me to narrow in on the applicable legal reasoning behind my arguments to be able to achieve the tribunal decision I had hoped for.

Using the skills I’ve learned, I was able to navigate legislation and case law efficiently, as well as articulate the issues in my dispute clearly and precisely.

Assignments based on fictitious scenarios I’ve undertaken during my studies have been fantastic by giving me experience in picking out the main issues, breaking them down, and arguing them effectively. The skills I’ve acquired during my studies in the law program were vital to the outcome of this dispute, and I look forward to completing my course.

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