BC Court of Appeal Dismisses Rear End Collision Negligence Allegations

While there are times when a vehicle that is rear-ended by another can be found at fault for the collision in the usual course of things the rear driver bears full responsibility.  Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Court of Appeal upholding such a finding.

In today’s case (Bains v. Chatakanonda) the Defendant stopped to execute a left hand turn when the Plaintiff rear ended his vehicle.  The Plaintiff’s claim was dismissed at trial with the judge finding her fully at fault for the crash.  On appeal the Plaintiff argued the Defendant should looked in his rear view mirror prior to stopping for his turn and failing to do so was negligent.  In rejecting this argument and upholding the claim dismissal the BC Court of Appeal provided the following reasons:

[23]         Mr. Chatakanonda was looking ahead for approaching traffic, and to the alley to ensure that he did not pull out in a left turn when it might cause a risk to oncoming traffic or a pedestrian.

[24]         It was clear from the judge’s findings that he did find that Mr. Chatakanonda ascertained it was safe to slow down and stop while waiting to make his left turn safely. This is clear from the following findings:

a)       that Mr. Chatakanonda was familiar with this left turn and knew it could be conducted safely, having done so for five years and knowing that others also did so (at para. 7);

b)       that in planning the turn, he was driving relatively slowly, below 30 km/h (at para. 3);

c)       that he illuminated his left‑turn signal and it was operating properly (at paras. 4, 17); and

d)       that he braked to a stop for a proper safety reason and his brake lights were operating (at paras. 7, 17).

[25]         Ms. Bains argues that being familiar with that left turn and neighbourhood has nothing to do with ascertaining the safety of a left turn on the day in question. I agree and disagree. I agree that each time Mr. Chatakanonda makes a left turn at that location, he is obliged to ascertain he can do so safely. However, given his familiarity with the location, he is entitled to have some expectations about how others behind him will perceive his driving, speed, and turn signal and react to them in the context of that road, those conditions, typical traffic, and that neighbourhood.

[26]         There was no evidence to suggest that Mr. Chatakanonda did anything out of the ordinary that would not have been expected by a prudent driver following him from a safe distance and at a safe speed, given the conditions of the road, sightlines, or other factors.

[27]         Ms. Bains was the following driver who drove into Mr. Chatakanonda’s car. She does not explain how, on the findings of the judge, the fact that Mr. Chatakanonda did not look behind him could have caused or contributed to Ms. Bains driving into his car.

[28]         For example, there was no evidence that it was highly unusual to turn left at that location, in that neighbourhood; there was no evidence that a following driver would not be able to anticipate the left turn because of impaired sightlines; or that in that neighbourhood the typical volume and speed of traffic made it generally unsafe to prepare to make and then make a left turn at that location.

[29]         In the oral submissions at the hearing of the appeal, counsel for Ms. Bains attempted to advance a new argument. It appears to be a suggestion that the judge made a factual error in finding that Mr. Chatakanonda had braked to stop while moving part of his car over the painted traffic island. The argument now is that Mr. Chatakanonda had not done so, but instead, stopped entirely in the northbound lane. Leaving aside the fact that this is a new argument not addressed in the factum, and that there was some evidence before the judge to support his finding, I do not see how this proposition would change anything about the findings on liability.

[30]         It is clear that the judge rejected Ms. Bains’ evidence that Mr. Chatakanonda stopped suddenly without warning and without illuminating his car’s signal light. The judge found that Mr. Chatakanonda’s car was “there to be seen, stopped with signal and brake lights illuminated.”

[31]         I conclude that the findings of the judge that Mr. Chatakanonda was not negligent do not give rise to reviewable error.

Bains v. Chatakanonda, bc injury law, rear end collisions

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ERIK
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When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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