Bus Driver Negligent For Injuries Caused in "No-Impact" Incident

As highlighted earlier this year, a motorist can be found negligent for injuries caused to a passenger even in the absence of a collision.  If a motorist makes an abrupt movement causing injuries to occupants liability can follow if the abrupt movement falls below the expected standard of care.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing such an incident.
In last week’s case (Erickson v. Sibble) the Plaintiff was riding as a passenger in the Defendant’s bus.  As he approached an intersection he brought his vehicle to an abrupt stop to avoid running a red light.  The sudden breaking caused injuries to the Plaintiff.  In finding the bus driver negligent and liable for the injuries sustained in this ‘no-impact’ incident Madam Justice Ballance provided the following reasons:
[62]         I have found that Mr. Sibble made the following oral and written statements:
·       he apologized to Ms. Erickson and Ms. da Silva for the manner of the stop and declared that he did not want to get a “red light” ticket;
·       he told Ms. Erickson that he had applied the “emergency brake”, by which he was referring to the maxi-break, at the time of the stop;
·       the statements that Mr. Pearson captured in his incident report and those that Mr. Pearson testified about, as detailed above; and
·       that he had stopped “a little harder than normal”, as recorded in his incident report.
[63]         Mr. Sibble’s statements constitute admissions and are admissible against him, either as admissions against interest or as an exception to the hearsay rule:  R. v. Evans, [1993] 3 S.C.R. 653; R. v. Foreman (2002), 169 C.C.C. (3rd) 489 (Ont. C.A.); R. v. Mapara, 2005 SCC 23.  If admitted on the latter basis, I find that the requisite features of reliability and necessity are present.  Under either doctrine, his admissions are admitted for their truth.
[64]         I am satisfied that from the outset of Ms. Erickson’s journey, Mr. Sibble’s driving pattern was erratic, by which I mean that he engaged in a pattern of acceleration and braking that caused the bus to lurch and jerk as it travelled along.
[65]         The evidence establishes that the bus was moving at not less than 40 kilometres per hour on its approach to the Intersection, and when Mr. Sibble was a distance of ten or, at most, fifteen metres from it, he became aware that the light was amber.  The evidence supports the inference that when he noticed the amber light, he could not be sure how long it had been that colour, and was therefore concerned that he was approaching the Intersection on a stale amber that was about to turn red.  Mr. Sibble was concerned about whether he had enough time to stop safely or sufficient time to proceed through.  He anticipated that were he to opt for the latter, the light could change to red and he might get a “red light” ticket.  By the time Mr. Sibble elected to stop, the bus was even closer to the Intersection than when he had first noticed the amber light.
[66]         I accept that, at first Mr. Sibble braked “softly”.  However, it became readily apparent to him that despite his braking efforts, the front of the bus was moving over the crosswalk and trespassing into the Intersection.  The probabilities of the situation show that in recognizing this unwelcome state of affairs, Mr. Sibble applied the brakes suddenly and with much greater force, equivalent to slamming hard on the brakes, to prevent the bus from ingressing further into the Intersection.  I think it is more likely than not that he also drew on the maxi-brake in a misguided attempt to fortify the conventional braking.
[67]         Mr. Sibble’s sudden and vigorous braking caused the bus to come to an abnormally abrupt and jarring stop.  The stop was not in the nature of a movement that would fall within the normal range reasonably expected by the transit travelling public, as was the case for example in Sawatsky v. Romanchuk, [1979] B.C.J. No. 964 (S.C.).  There was no reason, such as a pedestrian stepping out in front of the bus or a vehicle unexpectedly appearing or threatening to appear in Mr. Sibble’s oath, so as to justify stepping on the brakes with such sudden and excessive force.  Even by jamming on the brakes, Mr. Sibble was not able to stop the bus until approximately one-third of its length had intruded into the Intersection.
[68]         I find that Mr. Sibble glanced into his interior mirror as soon as he had made the stop to ensure that his passengers were safe precisely because he knew that the stop had been abnormally abrupt.  It is not clear why at that time he did not see evidence of Ms. Erickson’s mishap.
[69]         The evidence supports a finding that had Mr. Sibble been maintaining a proper lookout and exercising due care and attention as he advanced on this major intersection, he would not have been “caught short” in the sense of not having sufficient time to safely stop or proceed through safely before the light turned red.  The evidence as a whole supports the conclusion that he failed to exercise the due care and attention and otherwise conduct himself in a manner reasonably expected of a prudent bus operator in all of the circumstances.  Stated another way, I find that the Accident would not have occurred just the same had Mr. Sibble acted in accordance with his standard of care in discharge of the high duty that he owed to Ms. Erickson.

bc injury law, bus accidents, Erickson v. Sibble, Madam Justice Ballance, no-impact collision

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

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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