BC Court of Appeal Dismisses "Black Ice" Claim
Today reasons for judgment were released by the BC Court of Appeal dismissing the appeal of a very seriously injured Plaintiff who was involved in a single vehicle collision in 1998.
The Plaintiff was involved in a terrible motor vehicle accident. While driving from Tsawwassen to Vancouver on a January morning, his vehicle “left the road and overturned in the adjacent field. (he was) seriously and permanently injured, and had no recollection of the accident”.
There were, unfortunately, no witnesses to the accident itself.
When advancing a personal injury tort claim in BC, the Plaintiff has the burden of proof to prove why someone else is at fault for the accident. That is certainly difficult if the accident results in injuries that are so serious that they leave a person ‘with no recollection’ and even more difficult if there are no witnesses.
The Plaintiff sued the Ministry of Transportation and Highways and the contractor responsible for that particular stretch of roadway. The allegation was that they failed to adequately perform their maintenence duties. In other words, saying they should have and could have removed black ice from the scene of the accident.
The trial judge concluded that the Plaintiff failed to prove that the accident was caused by black ice and the claim was dismissed. The BC Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal concluding that “the trial judge made none of the errors alleged (on appeal). His findings of fact were well supported by the evidence.”
In reaching this conclusion the Court stated that:
The trial judge made no error by failing to compare the relative probability of black ice and an animal on the highway, or other circumstances, as explanations for the accident. He considered the evidence for and against the appellant’s theory and determined that he had not proven, on the balance of probabilities, the essential fact that black ice was present on the highway, and therefore could not prove causation. The trial judge was under no obligation to compare the relative probabilities of the theories, and his conclusion would not have differed had he done so.
The Court does a good job in discussing the burden of proof in personal injury tort claims in BC. This case is a strong illustration of the fact that Plaintiff’s must prove, on a balance of probabilities, that someone else is at fault for their injureis to succeed in a tort claim in BC.
This case is certainly worth reading for anyone advancing a claim against the Ministry of Highways in BC alleging that they or their contractors failed to safely maintian the roads under their watch.