Bus Driver Liable For Driving Over Dip at Excessive Speed

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing fault for an injury to a bus passenger.
In today’s case (Hutchinson v. Dyck) the Plaintiff was a passenger on a bus.  As the bus drove the plaintiff “was ejected upwards from his seat and hit the seat on the way down.”.  He suffered a burst injury in his low spine which resulted in chronic mechanical back pain.
The bus driver denied fault for the incident arguing he drove with reasonable care but the Court rejected this finding he drove with excessive speed over a depression in the road which caused the injury.  In reaching this conclusion Madam Justice Duncan provided the following reasons:

[23]         The defendant was an experienced bus driver. The plaintiff was entitled to expect that he would operate the bus in a safe, proper and prudent manner. The plaintiff is not expected to assume any risk associated with the operation of the bus which could not reasonably be anticipated by a passenger on the bus. The usual route along Grace Road would not cause a passenger to be thrown up off his seat in such a violent fashion.

[24]         The defendant believed he was travelling 30 kilometres per hour when he hit the dip, but he made no note of that or other salient details on the incident form. The first time his estimate of 30 kilometres per hour was recorded came at his examination for discovery. This was an important detail which should have been noted on the incident form. The defendant was aware someone had been injured after he hit the dip in the road. The ambulance attended and took the plaintiff away. It was not a trivial matter. The defendant’s recollection of his speed well after the incident is not credible.

[25]         In addition, the defendant agreed he noted on the incident report form that he knew there was a bump in the road but could not see how deep it was due to the dark and rain prevailing at the time. In other words, he saw it but did not approach it in such a fashion as to judge it properly. The defendant’s recollection of the conditions as dark and rainy are at odds with photographs taken by his supervisor shortly after the incident was called in. While it would obviously be more light out as the morning progressed, the photographs do not depict a roadway soaked with heavy rain, further calling into question the defendant’s recollection of how the accident occurred.

[26]         In all the circumstances, I find the defendant was travelling faster than he thought on a stretch of road he knew contained a dip. He was going too fast to fully appreciate how significant a dip it was and too fast to take evasive action and brake to minimize the impact once he saw the dip. On balance I am not satisfied the defendants have shown the driver conducted himself in a reasonable and careful manner consistent with the high duty of care imposed on those engaged in public transit and I find the defendants negligent.

bc injury law, bus collision, Hutchinson v. Dyck, Madam Justice Duncan

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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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