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Tort Law Case: Clements v. Clements

Introduction to Tort Law

In Canada, there are ten provinces and three territories that follow the regulations of common law and the regime based on tort law (Baudouin and Linden 21). The inhabitants know how to discern right from wrong and behave in regards to the social expectations. Still, people can make mistakes and wrong decisions frequently. In fact, many human experiences can be fall under tort law because this type of law is one of the most intriguing areas of the law that may cover all human decisions and activities (Edwards 3). Aalberts describes a tort as “a wrongful act that injures another person’s body, property, or reputation” (484). Canadians are free to develop various tort claims to protect their rights, save their properties, or get the necessary portion of compensation after a tort takes place. Each tort case may have its own causes. As a rule, each case is a good lesson for the citizens to realize why and how it is necessary to be careful with every word spoken and action done. In this paper, the case Clements v. Clements (2012 SCC 32) will be investigated to analyze its legal principles and categories and consider the lessons that may be taught about tort law and human activities.

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Summary of the Case

The case Clements v. Clements is one of the famous legal cases that attracts people’s attention even now regardless the fact that it began and ended several years ago. The wife sued her husband and blamed him for his negligence while driving a motorcycle in wet weather that led to an accident. She, as a passenger of the same motorcycle, got brain injuries after the accident took place when the bike turned out to be out of control because of the nail damaged the rear tire (Clements v. Clements par. 1). The wife wanted to prove the fault of her husband and underlined the facts of his negligence because the speed limit was exceeded, and the bike was overloaded. Her main claim was the possibility to avoid the accident in case the husband followed all rules and did not break the speed limit. However, the appellant was not able to prove “but for” causation according to which the injury of the plaintiff would not have happened but for some other actions of the defendant (Okrent 42). The judge asked for scientific reconstruction evidence and required the material contribution to the case. Due to lack of evidence and the inability to prove the possibility of other results with less or even no harm to the passenger, the case was dismissed in favour of the defendant.

Tort Categories

In the Canadian tort law, there are three main categories of torts with their own peculiarities and effects. The intentional torts are the civil wrongs that are characterized by the intentional conduct of the defendants that leads to damage of another person or someone’s property. Even the situation when one person provokes another person to fight may be identified as an intentional tort. Still, not many cases are based on intentional torts because it is usually hard to prove the intentions of defendants. Negligence is another tort category that may cover such cases as road accidents, slip and fall situations, or even a fight in the kindergarten that is caused by poor control of an educator. Aalberts describes “a duty owed by the person committing the tort to the injured party” as the key to a negligence action (484). There are also the cases of strict liability (also known as an absolute liability) when people committed damageable or violent acts without intent.

In fact, the case of the Clements was rather simple (Steel 173). There was the causal issue in order to prove the negligent behaviour of the defendant. It was a balance of probability. The motorcycle could or could not be damaged by a nail, and the driver could or could not cope with the driving difficulties at that particular moment. Therefore, it is possible to consider negligence as the tort category of the case. On the one hand, there was a reasonable person, who drove the motorcycle, and a reasonable person, who took the passenger seat. The was an accident because of poor weather conditions and the damage not because of the defendant’s fault. On the other hand, the plaintiff could neither prove causation of the situation nor use the “but for” test to explain the situation. Such inabilities influenced the decisions of the court.

The case under analysis was decided several years ago. The conclusion made by the court was based on the impossibility to find scientifically reconstruction evidence and pass through the “but for” causation test successfully. There were certain limitations in the test. There were no witnesses for the case. Though the fact of the fault was evident, there was not a causal link. The plaintiff could demonstrate the results of the accidents and share her personal observations and thoughts. Still, she could not prove the possibility that the accident could be avoided in case the weight of the baggage or the speed of the motorcycle was appropriate.

At the court, it was declared that regarding the concept of material contribution to the case, it is wrong to blame the husband because he was not liable for the accident that took place. Weather conditions and an accidental nail on the road could be defined as the reasons for the accident. The ability or inability to cope with the challenge because of high speed could not be proved. It is hard to understand if careless behaviour could be the reason for the accident because of the inability to conduct the “but for” test.

The key legal point that was raised in the case “Clements v. Clements” was connected to the usual “but for” test that could be used to prove causation in a negligence action. The task was to prove if it was Mr. Clements’ negligence that caused Mrs. Clements’ injury. To prove personal innocence in the case, Mr. Clements hired a person, who could investigate the case and explain that the nail on the road that led to deflation and damage of the wheel, could be the reason for the accident regardless the possible negligent behaviour of the defendant. Therefore, it is possible to check if the nail on the road could lead to the same injuries of the plaintiff. Still, the fact of driver’s negligence in that situation was hard to prove because the defendant refused such tort claims. The conclusion of the case was connected with the inapplicability of a material contribution test and the impossibility to prove the blame of Mr. Clements in that case. Still, “impossibility of proof alone was not a suitable criterion for determining whether a departure from proof on the balance of probability should be made in respect to causation” (Steel 174).

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Application of Criminal Charges

Taking into consideration the characteristics of the case and the outcomes that have been already made by the court, it is possible to say that there are no criminal charges that may also be applied. Regarding the absence of evidence and the “but for” test, it is hard to gather enough reasons to claim this case as a criminal crime. Though the plaintiff mentioned the fact of over speeding, there were no police officers, special cameras, or other devices who/that could be used as evidence to prove the correctness of her words. It was also necessary to investigate if the passenger could observe the speedometer from the seat taken. In fact, the crime did not take place because it was an accident that led to injuries and numerous misunderstandings.


In general, the case Clements v. Clements shows that even family relations may be controlled by tort law. It was proved that an accident took place. The driver, Mr. Clements could not succeed in driving a motorcycle the tire of which was damaged by the nail. Mrs. Clements got brain injuries and wanted Mr. Clements taking responsibility for the accident. The court proved the innocence of the defendant because of the inability to conduct the “but for” causation test and explained that the level of negligence could lead to some other less harmful outcomes.

Works Cited

Aalberts, Robert, J. Real Estate Law. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.

Baudouin, Jean, Louis and Allen M. Linden. Tort Law in Canada. Frederick, MD: Aspen Publishers, 2010. Print.

Clements v. Clements. 2012 SCC 32. Supreme Court of Canada. 2012. Judgments of the Supreme Court of Canada, 2012. Web.

Edwards, J. Stanely. Tort Law. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.

Okrent, Cathy. Torts and Personal Injury Law. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning, 2014. Print.

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Steel, Sandy. Proof of Causation in Tort Law. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Print.

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