BC Injury Law and ICBC Claims Blog

Erik MagrakenThis Blog is authored by British Columbia personal injury lawyer Erik Magraken. Erik is a partner with the British Columbia personal injury law-firm MacIsaac & Company. He restricts his practice exclusively to plaintiff-only personal injury claims with a particular emphasis on claims involving orthopaedic injuries and complex soft tissue injuries. Please visit often for the latest developments in matters concerning BC personal injury claims and ICBC claims.

Erik Magraken does not work for and is not affiliated in any way with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC). Please note that this blog is for information only and is not claim-specific legal advice.  Erik can only provide legal advice to clients. Please click here to arrange a free consultation.

Archive for the ‘ICBC Liability (fault) Cases’ Category

Bus Driver Partly Liable For Passenger Injury After Stopping Too Far From The Curb

November 26th, 2014

Reasons for judgement were released recently by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, finding a bus driver partly liable for injuries after a passenger fell while disembarking the bus.

In the recent case (Isaacs v. Coast Mounatain Bus Company Ltd) the Plaintiff fell while getting off the bus.  At the time the bus stopped some 12-14 inches from the sidewalk contrary to their policy of stopping closer to the curb.   The Plaintiff attempted to jump to the curb resulting in injury.  The Court found both parties equally to blame for the incident.  In holding the Defendant 50% liable Madam Justice Watchuk provided the following reasons:

[47]         If the distance of the front door of the bus from the curb was greater than ten inches, there is potential negligence on the defendants.  As stated above, Translink has in place guidelines for a standard bus stop that state that buses should be stopped parallel to the curb and within six to ten inches of that curb.  However, the defendants’ negligence is not to be measured against a general policy, but rather must be considered in light of the circumstances that presented themselves at the time of this specific accident (Heyman v. South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority (c.o.b. Translink), 2013 BCSC 1724 at para. 68). 

[48]         Although the defendants’ policy directive is not determinative, in light of these specific circumstances I find that the policy of stopping less than ten inches away from the curb reflects the standard of care required by a reasonably prudent bus driver.  Thus, if the distance between the front door and the curb was greater than ten inches, there would be a prima facie case of negligence and it would be for the defendants to establish that the plaintiff’s injuries occurred without negligence on their part or due to a cause for which the defendants were not responsible. 

[49]         Ms. Isaacs’ evidence is that the bus came to a stop at an angle with the front of the bus further from the curb than the back of the bus.  Her evidence was that the distance from the bottom step to the curb was 12-14 inches.  In cross-examination she disagreed with the statement that the distance was only six inches from the curb, and responded, “Oh no – it was wider, quite wide”.  This is consistent with her evidence that when she was on the sidewalk after the fall, Ms. Isaacs observed that the rear of the bus was closer to the sidewalk than the front. 

[50]         I accept Ms. Isaacs’ evidence in this regard.  I have noted that her memory of the number of steps at the front of the bus is incorrect, as she recalled one step at the front when there are three steps on this type of bus.  However, other than this point, her evidence with regard to the location of the bus when it was stopped is persuasive and is consistent with the other details of the scene at the time of her fall. 

[51]         The evidence of Mr. Payne is, I find, evidence of his usual good practice with regard to stopping the bus with the front and rear exits at an equal distance, and six inches from the bottom of the steps to the curb.  However, his evidence with regard to this stop is internally inconsistent.  He testified that he drives the bus straight in the curb lane.  He also testified that he angles the wheel to the left prior to the stop so that he is ready to pull out into traffic when the bus leaves the stop.  On the evidence of this stop of this bus prior to this incident, I find that Mr. Payne angled the steering wheel to the left prior to the bus coming to a complete stop.  Thus the front of the bus and the front door were further from the curb than the back of the bus and the back door. 

[52]         I accept Ms. Isaacs’ evidence that the bottom step of the front door exit was 12-14 inches from the curb, and therefore greater than ten inches from the curb.  I accept her evidence that the distance is the reason that she jumped from the bottom step to the curb rather than going down the bottom step to the pavement, crossing and stepping up on the curb to the sidewalk. 

[53]         That the bus was parked further than ten inches from the curb is contrary to the defendants’ internal policy.  In these circumstances it was a breach of the defendants’ standard of care owed to the plaintiff. 

[54]         A further breach of the defendant Mr. Payne is that, having stopped the bus further than ten inches from the curb, he did not warn Ms. Isaacs of the potential hazard being the excess distance.  Although he considered a warning as he observed her moving quickly, he decided not to startle her.  Given his observations, when he saw Ms. Isaacs exiting without use of the railing at more than 10 inches from the curb he should have provided a warning. 


Driver Found 60% At Fault for Rear End Crash After Failing to Activate Hazard Lights

November 6th, 2014

The BC Court of Appeal released reasons for judgement today upholding a trial judgement finding a motorist who was rear-ended 60% liable for the collision for failing to have their hazard lights activated prior to the crash.

In today’s case (Langille v. Marchant) the Plaintiff was involved in a crash which left her vehicle stopped in the middle lane of a bridge.  A few minutes later her vehicle was rear ended.  The BC Court of Appeal found it was not unreasonable for the Plaintiff to have not moved her vehicle prior to the second collision, but that the failure of her to activate her hazard lights was negligent and upheld the trial finding placing 60% of the blame on this omission.

In reaching this conclusion the Court of Appeal provided the following reasons:

[19]         Activating emergency flashers is a step Ms. Langille certainly could have taken. It was open to the trial judge to find that it was negligent on the part of Ms. Langille to obtain particulars from the other driver before ensuring the safety of the location of the accident, or at least improving the situation for oncoming drivers by activating her flashers. It was also open to the trial judge to find doing so would have reduced the likelihood of impact or the severity of the impact that occurred. That is the logical implication of the finding that Ms. Marchant’s late recognition of the hazard caused or contributed to the accident. The activation of flashers would have made Ms. Langille’s car more visible and made it harder for Ms. Marchant to fail to notice its presence or note earlier that it was not moving, and to take earlier evasive measures.

[20]         As this Court noted in Hansen v. Sulyma, 2013 BCCA 349, when considering the trial judge’s assessment of causation in a similar case:

[29]      I do not read the trial judge in this case… as having found that this was one of those exceptional cases in which the “but for” test is to be “relaxed” by recourse to a “material contribution to risk” test. Rather, the trial judge was using “contribute to” in the traditional sense and in my respectful opinion, did not err in doing so. Certainly on a “robust and pragmatic approach”, it was a reasonable conclusion that if Mr. Sulyma had activated his hazard lights, Mr. Leprieur would likely have been alerted to the presence of the Honda and would have had adequate, or more, reaction time in which to decelerate. Even if deceleration would not have totally avoided the impact but would only have reduced Ms. Hansen’s injuries, the “but for” test was still met.

[21]         I would not disturb the trial judge’s findings that it was negligent to turn off the car and leave only its running lights on in the middle of a busy bridge at night in a location where one would not expect vehicles to be stopped, nor would I disturb the finding that the negligence contributed to the accident.

[22]         The appellant argues that in apportioning liability the trial judge failed to recognize that the primary responsibility for avoiding rear end collisions rests with the driver approaching from the rear. In my view, it is clear from her reasons for judgment that the trial judge recognized that rule; she found the defendant negligent and liable, before going on, as she was required to do, to consider the plaintiff’s conduct. Having found the plaintiff contributorily negligent she was required to address the relative degrees of blameworthiness of the parties.

[23]         When she weighed the parties’ relative degrees of blameworthiness the trial judge was clearly of the view that the plaintiff’s conduct in failing to protect herself and other drivers after the first collision was more blameworthy than the defendant’s conduct. The trial judge found the defendant to have been momentarily inattentive in the face of an imminent, and relatively difficult to discern, peril. The plaintiff, on the other hand, attended to inspection of damage and attempted to exchange information with Mr. Masahiro before taking a simple step to protect herself and others. The trial judge properly treated the failure to illuminate flashers and move the vehicle collectively as “the central allegation” made against the plaintiff. ln my view, this central complaint, that the plaintiff failed to take any step to reduce the risk to drivers approaching what the trial judge found to be an unexpected hazard, remains, even if the plaintiff’s failure to move her vehicle is not blameworthy.


Watch Out for the Moose, Eh! Failure To Warn Leads to Liability

November 3rd, 2014

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Prince George Registry, addressing the duties of a motorist after colliding with an animal.

In today’s case (Ziemver v. Wheeler) a motorist struck a moose on the Alaska Highway.  It was “fully dark” at the time.  The moose lay dead or wounded when a subsequent motorist travelling in the same direction struck the animal, lost control and collided with an oncoming vehicle.

Multiple lawsuits were commenced.  The Court found that, given visibility issues, none of the motorists were responsible for striking the moose.  However, the first motorist was found liable for the subsequent collisions for failing to warn other motorists about the injured or dead moose in the roadway.  In reaching this conclusion Madam Justice Watchuk provided the following reasons:

[154]     A driver who has collided with wildlife must take reasonable steps to preclude the possibility of another vehicle colliding with that wildlife.  The actions which will constitute reasonable steps will vary depending on the circumstances.  The time available to the driver who has collided with the wildlife is an important factor to consider in assessing reasonableness. ..

[180]     Warning other motorists of the hazard that he had good reason to believe was lying on the road was a duty.  The duty arose at the time that he hit the moose.  Not utilising the available 9 minutes to fulfill that duty was a breach of his duty.  That breach caused the collisions between Mr. Walter and the moose and the Walter-Ziemer vehicles. ..

[187]     Mr. Wheeler failed to take any reasonable or entirely possible steps over the period of approximately 9 minutes before the third collision.  He did not return to the scene until a minimum of 21 minutes had passed.  I find that in these circumstances, his failure to take any steps to warn other motorists of the hazard posed by the moose carcass fell below the standard of care.

[188]     I further find that but for Mr. Wheeler’s failure to warn other motorists, the Walter-Ziemer collision would not have occurred or would have been likely to result in significantly decreased injury. 

[189]     This is not a case like Fajardo, in which the collision would have occurred even if the defendant driver had taken reasonable steps to warn other motorists (at para. 40).  Unlike in Fajardo, the hazard in this case did not take up the entire highway lane.  Further, because the weather was clear and Mr. Walter and Mr. Ziemer could see each other approaching, it is unlikely that they would have collided if they had taken evasive action to avoid the moose, which also distinguishes this collision from the accident in Fajardo. 

[190]     Most importantly, I find that both Mr. Ziemer and Mr. Walter would have been likely to avoid or lessen the impact of the collision if they had been warned that there was an approaching hazard.  I accept Mr. Walter’s evidence that he would have slowed if he had seen flashing lights which he would have understood as a warning.  I also find that Mr. Ziemer was an attentive driver and that he would have been likely to respond to a warning signal from Mr. Wheeler.  Both of these findings are supported by the persuasive expert evidence of Dr. Droll which indicated the ways in reasonable drivers could be assisted by roadside warnings of an upcoming hazard. 

[191]     In conclusion, I find that Mr. Wheeler breached his duty to warn other motorists of the hazard posed by the moose carcass, and that this caused the Walter-Ziemer collision. 


Passenger 35% To Blame For Riding With Impaired Driver

October 14th, 2014

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing contributory negligence for a passenger who rides with an impaired motorist involved in a collision.

In today’s case (Telford v. Hogan) the Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle operated by the Defendant.  Both were drinking throughout the day.  As the vehicle was travelling at excessive speed on a highway the driver lost control resulting in a serious single vehicle collision.  The Plaintiff apparently interfered somehow with the steering wheel moments before the loss of control and the Court found the driver 75% at fault with the passenger shouldering 25% of the blame for this interference.  In addition to this the Court apportioned the Plaintiff’s contributory negligence at 35% for riding with an impaired motorist.  In reaching this conclusion Madam Justice Fitzpatrick provided the following reasons:

[103]     Despite the efforts of Ms. Telford’s counsel to distinguish the above cases, all of them bear some resemblance to this case in that the passenger and the driver embarked on a drinking exercise or “hazardous enterprise” where both knew or should have known that the intoxication of the driver was inevitable. I would repeat that Ms. Telford was well aware that Ms. Hogan was drinking over the course of the day and she had particular knowledge of the quantity of what Ms. Hogan consumed as the majority of it came from her own drink container. Although she may not have been aware of exactly what Ms. Hogan consumed from Ms. Ettinger’s cup, she would also have been aware that Ms. Ettinger’s beverage was alcoholic and that Ms. Hogan was sharing that too.

[104]     It does not follow that since Ms. Hogan was not exhibiting overt signs of impairment, one need not consider Ms. Telford’s lack of judgment in both offering her drink to Ms. Hogan and then getting in the vehicle being driven by Ms. Hogan for the trip home. To the extent that later in the day, Ms. Telford drank alcohol to the point of being severely intoxicated herself confirms that she failed to take reasonable steps to ensure her ongoing ability to assess her safety over the course of the trip home.

[105]     The cases cited by ICBC support the suggested range of apportionment of 30-35% for such a passenger who voluntarily rides with a drunk driver. The higher end of this range is amply supported, particularly by the fact that Ms. Telford herself provided most of the alcohol consumed by Ms. Hogan that day.

[106]     I assess Ms. Telford’s contributory negligence to be 35%.


“Wholly Inadequate” Stop Sign Placement Leads to Liability for Collision

September 23rd, 2014

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding a construction company largely at fault for the ‘wholly inadequate‘ placement of a temporary stop sign in a construction zone.

This week’s case (Richmond v. Channa) involved a two vehicle collision where the Channa vehicle failed to stop at a stop sign controlled intersection and collided with the Richmond vehicle.  While the Court found Channa 25% to blame for the crash the Court held the lion’s share of fault rested with a construction company who blocked visibility to the intersection’s stop sign and placed an inadequate temporary sign in its place.  In reaching this apportionment Mr. Justice Skolrood provided the following reasons:

[110]     In the case at bar, I find that Tien Sher bears primary responsibility for the accident. It is clear from the evidence that the temporary stop sign, which again was in fact a flag person’s paddle, was placed on the construction fence at a point where the line of the fence had already started to curve to the right or to the north. As such, it was not visible to vehicles travelling west on 107A Avenue until just before those vehicles actually enter the intersection with Ring Road.

[111]     Further, the size and placement of the temporary stop sign was wholly inadequate. As noted, it was much smaller than a normal or permanent stop sign. Moreover, its placement on the fence at an awkward downward pointing angle would not necessarily signal to drivers that it was intended to function as a regular stop sign and to control west bound traffic on 107A Avenue.

[112]     It is particularly telling that Mr. Pereira and Mr. Mossey, employees of the City, both identified the temporary stop sign as a safety hazard.

[113]     Tien Sher’s failure to ensure proper placement and size of the temporary stop sign was compounded by its failure to provide drivers with advance warning of the sign. Such advance warning would have been a reasonable and prudent measure in the circumstances, given that the temporary sign was located well away from where the permanent stop sign was situated and, again, was obscured to drivers.

[114]     In the circumstances, I find that Tien Sher’s conduct created an objectively unreasonable risk of harm to drivers of vehicles proceeding west on 107A Avenue towards the intersection (Ryan v. Victoria (City), [1999] 1 S.C.R. 201 at para. 28). I find further that Tien Sher’s negligence caused the accident in that but for its conduct, the accident would not have occurred (Athey v. Leonati, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 458 at para. 14; Resurfice Corp. v. Hanke, [2007] 1. S.C.R. 333 at paras. 21 – 23 and Clements v. Clements, [2012] 2 S.C.R. 181 at para. 8). In this regard, I accept Ms. Channa’s evidence that had she seen a stop sign, she would have stopped before entering the intersection…

[124]     I have already found that Tien Sher bears primary responsibility for the accident. It’s failure to comply with the minimum standards set out in the Manual, due in large measure to the fact that its designated safety officer did not even know of the Manual’s existence, its failure to erect adequate, or any, warning signs, and its wholly inadequate placement and sizing of the temporary stop sign demonstrates a disregard for the safety of drivers using 107A Avenue and constitutes conduct that is significantly more blameworthy than that of Ms. Channa.

[125]     I apportion liability 75% against Tien Sher and 25% against Ms. Channa.


Motorist Liable for Collision After Blanketing Other Vehicle in Snow

September 22nd, 2014

Interesting reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing fault for a single vehicle collision.

In today’s case (Link v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was travelling in winter driving conditions when “the front windshield of his vehicle (was blanketed with snow by a passing sport utility vehicle” following which the Plaintiff lost visibility, tapped his brakes, and lost control of his vehicle resulting in a single vehicle collision.

In finding the passing vehicle was fully at fault for passing when it was unsafe to do so Mr. Justice Ball provided the following reasons:

[17]         To determine whether the driver of the SUV was negligent, the Court must follow the analysis outlined in Crocker and Rowe. The driver of the SUV, as the driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle on the highway, owed a duty of care to the plaintiff. That duty is statutorily mandated in ss. 157-159 of the MVA.

[18]         Those sections also outline the required standard of care. Section 157 requires that the driver of an overtaking vehicle may only pass another vehicle on the left side “at a safe distance and must not cause or permit the vehicle to return to the right side of the highway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle”. Section 159 states that “a driver of a vehicle must not drive to the left side of roadway when overtaking and passing another vehicle unless the driver can do so safely.”

[19]         In the case at bar, the highway was blanketed with a large amount of snow that was clearly visible for all drivers to see, which made driving a treacherous task. Despite the poor road and weather conditions, the driver of the SUV blew by Mr. Link at a high speed in the left lane. Unlike the situation in Lang, where Hood J. found that the spray was unanticipated and a surprise to the overtaking driver, the driver of the SUV, given the conditions, would have – or should have – appreciated the likelihood that the act of passing at high speed and returning to the slow lane immediately in front of the overtaken vehicle would result in a significant amount of snow being thrown onto the overtaken vehicle causing a total loss of visibility. This risk could have been avoided by the driver of the SUV by passing at a lower rate of speed and not returning to the slow lane abruptly.

[20]         There is, in my view, a very heavy onus on the driver of an overtaking vehicle to make sure that passing can be done in safety; particularly in poor road and weather conditions. The driver of the SUV in this case did not respect the circumstances that the standard of care dictated. That driver was in clear breach of the standard of care.

[21]         Mr. Link did not voluntarily accept the risk that another driver on the highway would fail to pass him in safety. As for causation, I am satisfied that, as in Rowe, the unsafe pass “precipitated a chain of events” which culminated in Mr. Link’s accident. The driver of the SUV “roared right by” Mr. Link and “a big rooster tail of snow completed covered [the] windshield”. This caused Mr. Link to lose complete visibility, and he tapped his brakes because he could not see. The Link Vehicle then spun out and hit the median. I find, in the circumstances, that the driver of the SUV caused the accident.

[22]         No contributory negligence has been proven by the defendant. Mr. Link was in a smaller vehicle competing with bad weather and snow conditions. I find that Mr. Link was driving in a safe manner at low speed consistent with the difficult conditions. I also find that Mr. Link’s actions in tapping his brakes was a reasonable reaction to losing total forward visibility.

[23]         In the result I am satisfied that Mr. Link has proven on a balance of probabilities that the driver of the SUV was negligent in all of the circumstances of this case.


Motorist Found Fully At Fault Following Collision With Moose at Highway Speed

August 7th, 2014

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing liability following a collision with a moose in Northern BC.

In today’s case (Knight v. Knight) the Defendant collided with a moose causing catastrophic and disabling injuries to his spouse who was a passenger in the vehicle.  The Defendant argued he was not at fault as he was not speeding and had little time to react.  Mr. Justice Sewell rejected this argument and found him fully at fault.  In doing so the Court adopted ICBC’s “Learn to Drive Smart” manual as being relevant in assessing the standard of care and provided the following reasons:

[44]         In this case, Mr. Knight’s evidence is that he was driving at the posted speed limit, was looking straight ahead while driving because of the oncoming headlights of the Thomas vehicle and took no action when he noticed those headlights black out. Mr. Knight was aware that there were signs warning of the risk of moose being present on the highway and had on an earlier occasion seen a moose on Highway 37, albeit closer to Terrace. He was also aware that the risk of a moose being present was increased at dusk and that moose were more likely to be present during the rutting season, which includes October. There would be a minimal burden imposed on the defendant from driving more slowly. The only result of doing so would have been that he would have arrived at his destination a few minutes later than he would have if he was driving at the posted speed. There can be no doubt that a reasonable person living in Northern British Columbia would have been aware of the grave consequences of colliding with a moose at highway speed.

[45]         With respect to the standard of care, the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia’s Learn to Drive Smart Manual states at page 129:

Strategies: watching for animals

To help prevent a collision with an animal:

Scan the sides of the roadway ahead for animals

Watch for animal crossing signs when driving through farming or wooded areas. Slow down in these areas.

Be extra cautious at dusk and dawn. This is when animals move around to feed, and it is also harder for you to see them at these times.

Look for sudden, unusual spots of light on the roadway at night. This may be the reflection of your headlights off an animal’s eyes.

Remember that wild animals often move in herds. If you see one animal, there may be more.

[46]         I consider that the recommendations contained in the Driver’s Manual to be relevant in determining whether Mr. Knight met the required standard of care in this case.

[47]         In his evidence and examination for discovery, Mr. Knight admitted that he took none of the precautions recommended above. I am aware that I must be cautious about admissions made by Mr. Knight in this case given the fact that his wife is the plaintiff and that he therefore stands to benefit from an award in her favour. However, taking into account the whole of his evidence, his demeanor when giving evidence and the direct manner in which he answered questions put to him, I have no reason to believe that he was attempting to deceive me. Mr. Thomas’ estimate of the speed of the Knight vehicle was consistent with Mr. Knight’s evidence.

[48]         I conclude that Mr. Knight was operating his vehicle in a negligent manner on the night of October 22, 2008. I find that given the time of the year and the time of day and the presence of moose warnings signs on Highway 37, Mr. Knight was negligent in failing to slow his vehicle and in failing to take any extra precautions to keep a look out for the presence of moose on or near the highway.

[49]         I also find that he was negligent when he failed to immediately slow his vehicle when he observed something crossing in front of the headlights of Mr. Thomas’s oncoming truck.

[50]         In my view a reasonable person in Mr. Knight’s position would have immediately taken steps to slow his vehicle when he saw the headlights of the oncoming vehicle black out. I find that Mr. Knight was aware that something was obstructing the lights of the oncoming vehicle. Given the other factors I have already outlined – the warning that moose might be present on the highway, the time of day, and the fact that October is in the rutting season when moose are more likely to be present – I conclude that a reasonable driver would have realized that there was a material risk that it was an animal that was obstructing the lights and would immediately have applied his brakes and slowed his vehicle until he had ascertained what was causing the obstruction. I find that it was negligent of Mr. Knight not do so.

 


60/40 Liability Split After Pedestrian Steps in Front of Bus

July 29th, 2014

Corrected reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing fault between a pedestrian and a bus driver.

In today’s case (Whelan v. BC Transit) the Plaintiff pedestrian “was struck and had his foot run over by a BC Transit bus driven by the defendant Henry Kobbero, after Mr. Whelan had stepped onto the road to avoid some other pedestrians on the sidewalk.”

The bus was stopped shortly before the incident dropping off passengers and moved forward with the driver seeking to merge back with traffic.  Mr. Justice Schultes found both parties were to blame with the Plaintiff bearing the lion’s share of fault.  In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:

[71]         On all the evidence I am satisfied that there was a period of time, of more than transitory length, during which the bus was travelling forward, still in the curb lane, but the focus of Mr. Kobbero’s attention was on his left mirror and the act of merging. It was during this period that Mr. Whelan stepped out on the road and, had Mr. Kobbero’s attention been prudently apportioned between merging and the curb lane in front of him, he could have seen and reacted to the pedestrian in time of avoid a collision. His focus on merging reflected an assumption, which I find was not reasonable in light of his overall awareness of the range of pedestrian hazards, that his forward check earlier in the process was sufficient. However briefly, I conclude that he did fall below his required standard of care.

[72]         As was obvious from my earlier comments in this discussion, Mr. Whelan was himself contributorily negligent in this accident. In addition to his disregard for the bus’s right of way and his needless decision to place himself onto the travelled portion of the roadway simply to avoid a moment’s pause in his progress, he made an assumption that was even less grounded in objective fact than Mr. Kobbero’s — that the driver checking his shoulder meant that the bus would have moved into the left lane before it reached the area where he stepped off the sidewalk…

75]         I would characterize Mr. Kobbero’s lapse of care in conduct as falling more towards the momentary or minor end of the spectrum than towards the extremely careless end. I have found that it was a decision to focus his attention fairly briefly on an admittedly more pressing task, based on the faulty assumption that there were no risks directly ahead of him. This was not the kind of lapse that was inevitably going to cause harm; it required a pedestrian to do one of the foolish things that Mr. Kobbero has been trained to expect in order for that to happen. I conclude that Mr. Kobbero should bear 40% of the liability for this accident.

[76]         Mr. Whelan’s actions conversely, demonstrate a higher degree of carelessness. As a pedestrian he was extremely vulnerable to the oncoming bus and there were no safe circumstances under which he could have stepped on the road with it still moving forward in that curb lane. It was in essence a gamble on things playing out as he assumed they would, with a large downside, fortunately only a small part of which materialized here, to being wrong. Accordingly I fix his liability at 60%.


BC Court of Appeal Sends Strong Message To Cyclists Who Pass Vehicles on the Right

July 8th, 2014

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal addressing the practice of cyclists passing vehicles on the right finding, absent limited circumstances, that it is negligent to do so.

In today’s case (Ormiston v. ICBC) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 cycling collision. As he proceeded down hill a vehicle ahead of him in his lane of travel “was almost stopped at the centre line”. The Plaintiff had room on the right side of the vehicle and attempted to pass. As the Plaintiff did so the motorist veered to the right causing the Plaintiff to lose control.

The motorist left the scene and remained unidentified. The reason for the sudden veering motion remained unknown.  The Plaintiff sued ICBC pursuant to section 24 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act. ICBC admitted that the collision occurred and involved an unidentified motorist, however, ICBC argued the Plaintiff was fully responsible.

At trial both the cyclist and motorist were found partly to blame.  The BC Court of Appeal overturned this result finding the cyclist was full to blame for passing a vehicle on the right.  In reaching conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:

[23]         Under the Motor Vehicle Act a cyclist is required to ride as near as practicable to the right side of the highway (s. 183(2)(c)).  “Highway” is broadly defined to include any right of way designed to be used by the public for the passage of vehicles (s. 1).  That, it is said, includes the shoulder such that sometimes cyclists must ride on it to be as near as practicable to the right side of the highway.  Vehicles are required to travel on the right-hand half of the roadway (s. 150(1)).  “Roadway” is defined as the improved portion of a highway designed for use by vehicular traffic but does not include any shoulder (s. 119).  Vehicles cannot travel on the shoulder.

[24]         The contention is that because cyclists must sometimes ride on the shoulder while vehicles cannot travel on that part of a highway, the shoulder must, where practicable, be a lane for cyclists within the meaning of s. 158(1)(b) such that, when riding on the shoulder, they are able to take advantage of the exception it provides and pass vehicles on a roadway on their right.  It does appear that what may be practicable could vary considerably having regard for the differing widths of the shoulder over any given stretch of a highway, or from one highway to the next, as well as the condition of the surface.  One cyclist may have a much different view than another as to what is practicable in any given instance.

[25]         While I doubt the legislative intention was to create by this somewhat convoluted statutory route what would be thousands of miles of unmarked and ill-defined bicycle lanes across the province, I do not consider s. 158 (1)(b) constitutes an applicable exception to the prohibition against passing on the right in any event.  As defined, the exception applies to a laned roadway being a roadway divided into marked lanes for vehicles travelling in the same direction.  The markings divide the roadway; the lanes marked are on the roadway.  A roadway does not include the shoulder.  The shoulder could not be an unobstructed lane on a laned roadway.  The “laned roadway” exception has, as the judge said, no application here.  It does not permit cyclists to pass vehicles on the right by riding on the shoulder.  It must follow the driver of the vehicle would have had no reason to expect a cyclist like Ormiston would attempt to pass on the right by riding on the shoulder.  That must be particularly so here when the shoulder was not fit for a bicycle because it was strewn with gravel and Ormiston was riding as far to the right of the highway as he considered practicable.

[26]         Ormiston did a foolish thing.  Rather than wait until the driver’s intentions were clear, he decided to do what the Motor Vehicle Act prohibits – pass on the right.  He decided to take a chance and he was injured.  Had he waited, even a few seconds, there would of course have been no accident because the vehicle drove on after it had moved to the right of its lane. 

[27]         I conclude Dixon Ormiston was the sole author of his misfortune.  I do not consider there to be any basis in law to hold the driver of the vehicle liable in negligence.


Proving Fault After A Transit Bus Collision – The Reverse Onus

June 23rd, 2014

If you are injured while a passenger in a transit bus British Columbia law requires the bus driver to prove they were not at fault.  This is a ‘reverse onus’ from most personal injury claims where the Plaintiff must prove the Defendant was at fault.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing this.

In last week’s claim (Tchir v. South Coast British Columbia Transportation Authority) the plaintiff was riding as a passenger in a bus “when an unidentified driver came to an abrupt stop in front of the bus“.  The bus driver was forced to brake hard to avoid collision and the Plaintiff was thrown from her seat and injured.

The Court found both motorists were to blame for the incident.  In discussing the reverse onus in proving fault, Mr. Justice Davies provided the following summary of the law:

[38]         The standard of care owed by the Transit Defendants to Mrs. Tchir as a passenger is a high one. Also, once it is proven that a passenger is injured while riding on a public transit vehicle, a prima facie case of negligence is made out and the onus then shifts to the carrier to establish that the injuries suffered by the passenger occurred without fault on the carrier’s part.

[39]         Those principles were summarized by McLachlin J. (as she then was) in Planidin v. Dykes, [1984] B.C.J. No. 907 (S.C.) [Planidin] at pages 3 and 4 as follows:

There is little dispute as to the legal principles applicable in this case. The standard of care imposed on a public character is a high one. This standard has been established in the Supreme Court of Canada decision Day v. Toronto Transportation Committee [1940] S.C.R. 433, 4 D.L.R. 485 . At page 439 of that report of that case Davis, J. said:

·        ” The duty of the respondent to the appellant, its passenger, was to carry her safely as far as reasonable care and forethought could attain that end.”

·        At page 441 Hudson, J. in an oft-quoted passage, stated:

·        ” Although the carrier of passenger is not an insurer, yet if an accident occurs and the passenger is injured, there is a heavy burden on the defendant carrier to establish that he had used all due, proper and reasonable care and skill to avoid or prevent injury to the passenger. The care required is of a very high degree.”

These, and other cases, establish that once an accident occurs and a passenger is injured, a prima facie case in negligence is raised and the onus shifts to the public carrier to establish that the passenger’s injuries were occasioned without negligence on the company’s part. The question then is: What suffices to discharge this onus?

[40]         Concerning the last question posed, McLachlin J. went on to say:

This has been considered in at least two British Columbian cases and I refer to Lawrie v. B.C. Hydro and Power Authority (unreported, May 31st, 1876, B.C.S.C. Vancouver Registry No. 32708/74) and Fischer v. B.C. Hydro and Power Authority (unreported, February 19th, 1980, B.C.S.C. B781446). In the latter case, at page 8, Taylor, J., set out what the defendant must show to discharge the onus upon it in the following terms:

·        ” Thus there is in this case an onus on the defendants to show that the plaintiff came by her injury without negligence on their part or as a result of some cause for which they are not responsible. That is to say they must show that the vehicle was being driven carefully at the time of her fall, or that her fall resulted from some cause other than the manner in which the bus was being driven.”

[41]         Also instructive on the issue of the standard of care expected of the Transit Defendants in this case is the decision of Dardi J. in Prempeh v. Boisvert, 2012 BCSC 304 [Prempeh] at para. 15, in which she wrote:

… The standard of care owed to a plaintiff passenger by a defendant bus driver is the conduct or behaviour that would be expected of a reasonably prudent bus driver in the circumstances. This is an objective test that takes into consideration both the experience of the average bus driver and anything the defendant driver knew or should have known: Wang v. Horrod (1998), 48 B.C.L.R. (3d) 199 at para. 39 (C.A.); Patoma v. Clarke, 2009 BCSC 1069 at para. 6.

 


 

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