Passenger 50% at fault for Collision with pedestrian
In what can only be described as a unique and bizarre collision, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, assessing fault for a collision where an individual was struck by his own vehicle put in motion by his spouse.
In this week’s case (Mayne v. Mayne) the Plaintiff was in his vehicle with his wife, the Defendant, occupying the passenger seat. As he was pulling out of his garage he stopped the vehicle and went back in his home to retrieve a key. He left the vehicle running in neutral (mistakenly believing it had been placed in park). The vehicle slowly started to run down into the roadway. His wife, concerned it would be involved in a collision, reached over and attempted to put the vehicle in park. She was not successful, however, and shifted the vehicle into drive. The vehicle lurched forward and struck the Plaintiff who was just coming back out of the home.
The Court found both individuals equally to blame for the incident. In placing 50% of the fault on the Defendant Madam Justice Bruce provided the following reasons:
 Having regard to the circumstances of this case, I am unable to find that Mrs. Mayne has satisfied the onus of proof regarding the defence of “agony of the moment”. There was only a nominal risk of harm to the neighbour’s home and Mrs. Mayne panicked and took unreasonable and dangerous steps to stop the backward rolling vehicle. While Mrs. Mayne did not expect the Buick to roll backward, having no foreknowledge of Mr. Mayne’s failure to engage the emergency brake or to leave the vehicle in park, she nevertheless severely overreacted to the perceived danger. Given the very slight slope of the driveway, and viewed in light of the video presentation showing the likely speed of the Buick as it rolled backward, it is apparent that things were not happening quickly at all. The Buick was travelling ever so slowly albeit in a backward direction. There was no one in the area and the roadway was devoid of other traffic. The neighbour’s home was a considerable distance away. The Buick would have to travel out of the driveway, over the first curb, cross the roadway and negotiate the next curb, and travel through the lawn and the hedges of the neighbour’s home before it would have come into contact with a structure.
 In these circumstances, Mrs. Mayne had time to consider what to do. She could have easily unbuckled her seatbelt to make it easier to reach over and place the vehicle in park. She could have simply taken the key out of the ignition. There was no imminent danger from any objective point of view.
 The court must not make armchair judgments based on hindsight; however, clearly Mrs. Mayne panicked in a situation that would not have panicked a reasonable person in the same circumstances. Counsel argued that her age should be a factor. At 81, her reaction times and her judgment would be impaired. However, the law cannot countenance a lower standard for elderly drivers. Mrs. Mayne had a drivers’ licence and regularly operated the Buick. As a consequence, the court must presume that she possessed sufficient competence to operate a motor vehicle safely.
 For these reasons, I find that Mrs. Mayne was negligent when she took control of the Buick and struck Mr. Mayne.