Police Officer in Pursuit Found Fully at Fault for Intersection Collision

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, finding a police officer fully at fault for an intersection collision with another motorist.

In today’s case (Burroughs v. Chiasson) the Plaintiff was an RCMP officer involved in a crash in 2013.  At the time, while driving a fully marked RCMP vehicle, she “pursued a truck with an uninsured trailer by attempting to turn left, on a red light, onto Young Road from the westbound curb lane on First Avenue. While making this turn, she collided with a minivan driven by the defendant, Jennifer Chiasson. Ms. Chiasson was driving eastbound on First Avenue.”.

The RCMP officer sued the other motorist claiming damages from the collision.  The claim was dismissed with the Court finding that the Plaintiff entered the intersection when it was dangerous to do so in circumstances with no particular urgency.  In dismissing the claim and finding the officer fully at fault for the crash Mr. Justice Basran provided the following reasons:

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Rear-Ended Motorist Found Partly At Fault For Collision

As previously discussed, occasionally a motorist who is rear-ended by another can be found liable for the collision.  Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, with such a result.

In the recent case (Bay v. Woollard) the Plaintiff struck a vehicle that had, moments prior, struck another vehicle.  The middle motorist in the three car pile up was found 25% at fault for the second collision despite being rear-ended.  The primary reason for this finding was the Defendant’s failing to brake before the first crash thus depriving the Plaintiff of full notice of the imminent hazard.  In reaching a 75/25 split for the impact Mr. Justice Harvey provided the following reasons:

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Cyclist Struck in Marked Crosswalk Found 100% at Fault for Crash

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dismissing a personal injury claim involving a cyclist struck by a vehicle.

In today’s case (Dhanoya v. Stephens) the Plaintiff cyclist rode into a marked crosswalk without stopping and was struck by a vehicle.  The Court found the cyclist was fully at fault for the collision and had the cyclist kept a proper lookout the collision could have been avoided.  In finding the cyclist solely liable Madam Justice Dillon provided the following reasons:

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Pedestrian Found 80% At Fault For Being Struck While Jaywalking

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Court of Appeal upholding a trial judge’s assessment of fault for a pedestrian/vehicle collision.
In the recent case (Vandendorpel v. Evoy) the Plaintiff was struck while crossing a street.  He was at a light controlled intersection.  He pressed the button to activate the pedestrian walk signal but did not wait for the signal to come on.  Instead, he proceeded to cross the street while the signal for traffic in his direction was still red.  The Defendant was driving marginally over the speed limit and entered the intersection on a fresh yellow light striking the jaywalking pedestrian.   At trial the plaintiff was found 80% at fault for the crash.  In upholding this result the BC Court of Appeal agreed with the following reasonsing of the trial judge:

[53]      While both parties failed in their respective duties of care, I find Mr. Evoy’s failure was much less significant than Mr. Vandendorpel’s. His negligence consisted of driving at a speed that was over the posted limit, even if it was only minimally above that limit (i.e., approximately 55 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone) and doing so when the lighting and road conditions were less than optimal. Compared to this conduct, Mr. Vandendorpel’s failures were more serious. He was dressed in dark clothing, including a dark hooded pullover that was zipped up to the top. None of his clothing had any light reflective qualities. Counsel for Mr. Vandendorpel submits that wearing dark clothing is not in and of itself contributory negligence. That submission is correct, but Mr. Vandendorpel’s failures are greater than simply the clothing he was wearing. He was also wearing headphones and listening to music and that reduced his ability to hear any on-coming traffic. He also had to cross a five-lane roadway that spanned approximately 18 metres. Although he depressed the pedestrian control device, he only waited a second or so before he attempted to cross the roadway. He carelessly did so even though the pedestrian control signal was still red and the traffic control signals were still green. Mr. Evoy’s vehicle approached the Intersection from the north. That is the direction Mr. Vandendorpel was initially walking. The headlights of Mr. Evoy’s vehicle would have been visible from at least 100 metres away. Mr. Vandendorpel must not have looked north on Sooke Road as he began to cross the roadway because he did not see the headlights of Mr. Evoy’s vehicle until it was approximately 30 metres away from him. That is, until the vehicle was just about to enter the Intersection. At that point, the pedestrian control signal was still red and the traffic control signal was yellow. Notwithstanding all of this, Mr. Vandendorpel chose to run across the path of the on-coming car instead of standing fast or retreating.

[54]      I remain of the firm opinion that Mr. Vandendorpel showed a reckless disregard for his duties as a pedestrian on the roadway and conclude that his degree of fault for the accident is greater than that of Mr. Evoy.

[55]      The case authorities counsel provided me with respect to apportionment have been helpful. Each party’s degree of responsibility is to be decided by assessing the risk their respective conduct created, the effect of that risk, and the extent to which each party departed from the standard of reasonable care (see: MacDonald (Litigation guardian of) v. Goertz, 2008 BCSC 394, aff’d 2009 BCCA 358).

[56]      In my view, the risk Mr. Vandendorpel created when he chose to walk and then run across Sooke Road, into the path of Mr. Evoy’s on-coming vehicle created a much more significant risk than Mr. Evoy driving at a speed marginally above the speed limit on a dark morning with a wet roadway. Moreover, I find the departure from the standard of care expected of Mr. Vandendorpel as a pedestrian was much more pronounced than the departure of Mr. Evoy from his duty of care as a driver of a motor vehicle.

Motorist Found Faultless For Crash Despite Entering Intersection on Yellow Light

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing fault for an intersection crash involving a left turning vehicle and a vehicle driving straight through the intersection on a yellow light.
In today’s case (Krist v. Bock) the Plaintiff entered an intersection on a green light intending to turn left.  The Plaintiff committed to the intersection but oncoming traffic was too heavy so the Plaintiff had to wait.  After the light turned yellow the plaintiff proceeded with his turn but was then struck by the Defendant’s vehicle.
The Plaintiff alleged the Defendant was to blame for entering the intersection on a yellow.  Mr. Justice Bowden disagreed and dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim finding him fully at fault for the crash.  In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:

[17]         The defendant was aware of the plaintiff’s vehicle in the left-hand turn lane when he faced the yellow light and continued into the intersection without reducing his speed because of his concern that his vehicle would skid into the intersection. The fact that the defendant had noticed the plaintiff’s vehicle in the left turn lane before he initiated a left turn and did not reduce the speed of his vehicle does not constitute negligence. The presence of the plaintiff’s vehicle in the left turn lane did not cast a duty on the defendant to take extra care and he was entitled to presume that the plaintiff would not initiate a turn until his vehicle was through the intersection. The defendant was entitled to assume that the plaintiff would comply with the rules of the road and not commence a left turn until it was safe to do so.

[18]         I acknowledge that the defendant was warned by the police for entering the intersection in the face of a yellow light however I have accepted his evidence that because of the wet pavement, he could not have stopped safely and thus complied with s. 128 of the MVA.

[19]         In my view, the plaintiff proceeded to turn left when the defendant’s vehicle was in the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. The evidence does not indicate that the plaintiff took any care to determine if a left turn could be made safely. I do not accept the plaintiff’s evidence that he commenced his left turn when the traffic light was red. I accept the defendant’s evidence that the light had turned yellow when he entered the intersection and at that point in time the plaintiff had initiated a left turn.

[20]         In his examination for discovery the plaintiff said that he did not see the defendant’s vehicle until it was 20 feet away. I do not accept his explanation that the defendant’s vehicle was in the curb lane and changed into the center lane just before the accident occurred. He did not see the defendant’s vehicle make such a lane change and just surmised that was what he had done. The plaintiff did not mention this suggested lane change by the defendant in his statement to ICBC on January 3, 2013 nor in his examination for discovery on January 29, 2016.

[21]         In my view, the plaintiff should have seen the defendant’s vehicle as it was entering the intersection but failed to do so. I reject his explanation that the defendant’s vehicle had come from the curb lane into the center lane just before the accident occurred.

[22]         I accept the defendant’s evidence that when the traffic light turned yellow in the rainy conditions he could not stop safely without sliding in the intersection. He gave his evidence in a straight-forward and honest manner. There is no contradictory evidence. Accordingly, the defendant met the standard of care provided in s. 128(1) of the MVA.

[23]         In my view, when the defendant entered the intersection he was the dominant driver and the plaintiff was in the servient position. I find that when the defendant driver entered the intersection, he did not have a sufficient opportunity to avoid the collision with the plaintiff’s vehicle after the plaintiff had initiated a left turn disregarding his statutory duty to yield to the defendant whose vehicle posed an immediate hazard.

Security Guard Run Over By Fleeing Thief Found Not Contributorily Negligent

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing fault for a crash involving an unidentified motorist.
In the recent case (MacKenzie v. John Doe) the Plaintiff was working as a security guard when he noticed a shoplifter.  He pursued the shoplifter to his vehicle.  When confronted the shoplifter ran the plaintiff over and injured him.  The collision was described as follows:

[17]        The plaintiff described what happened.  When the individual was further along the sidewalk, the plaintiff observed him getting into the driver side of a parked vehicle.  The plaintiff approached the vehicle’s passenger side and opened the door, saying “store security”.  He asked for the merchandise back.  The individual responded, “fuck you”, and then put the key in the ignition, started the ignition, and immediately started reversing the vehicle into the parking lot.  

[18]        At that time, the door of the vehicle hit the plaintiff in the chest, causing him to lose his balance.  His feet slid under the passenger-side door.  The plaintiff hung onto the passenger-side door as the individual reversed his vehicle out of the parking spot.  He asked the individual to stop the vehicle but the individual did not do so and then the plaintiff let go.  When he let go, the passenger-side door hit him.  As a consequence, he lost his footing, fell and struck the back of his head on the concrete, at which point he believed his legs went under the vehicle.  The individual continued driving in reverse gear all the way up a ramp where he then spun around and drove away at quick speed, quicker than the speed one would normally go when reversing a vehicle, the plaintiff testified.

[19]        The plaintiff attempted to get up.  However, a bystander said “I am not sure if you realize what just happened to you.  You should probably stay down”.  So he did.  First aid arrived shortly after and then the paramedics.

The shoplifter remained unidentified and the Plaintiff applied for statutory compensation from ICBC for the hit and run collision.

ICBC argued that the Plaintiff was partly at fault for the incident.  The Court disagreed and in finding the Plaintiff acted reasonably in pursuing the thief Madam Justice Maisonville provided the following reasons:

[88]        I find that, in this case, the vehicle had not been started when the plaintiff approached it.  I find that the car key was not in the ignition when the plaintiff opened the vehicle’s passenger-side door and, as such, the plaintiff could not reasonably anticipate carelessness or even the events as they transpired, which involved flagrant and deliberately reckless conduct…

[93]        Consequently, where the defendant’s negligence rises to a level of flagrant and deliberate recklessness, the plaintiff cannot be found to be contributorily negligent, as reprehensible behaviour from a defendant is not reasonably foreseeable. 

[94]        Another aspect of the case before me negating contributory negligence is the fact that the plaintiff was not in violation of his company’s policy, and I cite Lewis v. Todd, [1980] 2 S.C.R. 694 in support.  In Lewis, it was dark out, and an officer wearing a dark uniform was struck by a car and killed while on duty.  The trial judge found no contributory negligence.  On appeal, the Ontario Court of Appeal found the officer to be 25% negligent.  However, on further appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, that decision was reversed.  At page 700, the Court stated:

The Court of Appeal found that Constable Lewis should not have continued unassisted with his investigation on the road. To do so was negligent. The evidence was, however, that Constable Lewis did not depart from police practice. The trial judge did not misapprehend the evidence, or ignore evidence which would have suggested that police standards required more than one officer at an accident. There was no evidence, then, to support the conclusion that Constable Lewis needed assistance and that he was negligent in not asking for it. …

[95]        Given that there were circumstances which should have alerted other drivers to the presence of police officers on the highway, the court in Lewis held that there was no negligence on the part of the officer, including on the basis that he failed to keep a proper lookout.  

[96]        Here, in like circumstances, the defendant was well aware of the presence of the plaintiff, who asked him to stop, yet chose to ignore him and instead respond with a terse, profane answer and reverse the vehicle.  I find that the plaintiff could not have reasonably foreseen what occurred, that the defendant was flagrant and deliberately reckless, and that the plaintiff is in no way contributorily negligent for the accident which occurred.

BC Court of Appeal – Losing Control on Shoulder of Road is Prima Facie Negligence

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal overturning a trial judgement as being ‘clearly wrong’ and finding that when a motorist loses control on the shoulder of a road a prima facie case of negligence is made out.
In today’s case (Gaebel v. Lipka) the Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle operated by the Defendant.  The Defendant drifted on to the shoulder of the road then “lost control, the vehicle fishtailed, crossed the road to the opposite side, travelled up onto an embankment, launched into the air and rolled over three times before landing.”.
The claim was dismissed at trial with a finding the Defendant was not negligent.  The Court of Appeal overturned this finding and provided the following reasons:

[29]         In my view driving onto the shoulder and losing control of the vehicle gives rise to a prima facie inference of negligence. On this evidence, the only reasonable inference that can be drawn was that Mr. Lipka drove on the shoulder either because of a lack of attention or because he approached the curve too fast, or both.

[30]         Once a prima facie case of negligence is proven, the onus shifts to the defendant to rebut the inference through the defence of explanation. A defence of explanation is an explanation of how the accident may have happened without the defendant’s negligence: Singleton v. Morris, 2010 BCCA 48 at para. 38.

[31]         In this case, Mr. Lipka has advanced no explanation as to how the accident may have occurred absent negligence on his part. The lack of an explanation distinguishes this case from cases such as Singleton and Nason, in which the trial judges found the prima facie case of negligence had been rebutted.

[32]         In the result, I find the respondents are wholly liable for Mr. Gaebel’s damages.

Motorcyclist Not At Fault for Crashing in "Agony of the Moment"

The legal principle of “agony of collision” sometimes also called “agony of the moment” gives wide latitude to a Plaintiff who is confronted with a sudden and unexpected hazard on the roadway due to someone else’s negligence.  This principle was in action in reasons for judgement published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In today’s case (Biggar v. Enns) the Plaintiff was operating a motorcycle and was riding in a staggered fashion behind the Defendant who was also operating a motorcycle.  The Defendant rounded a curve and was out of sight of the plaintiff.  During this time the Defendant took his eyes off the road and drifted into the oncoming lane of traffic.   He crossed back over the centre line and re-entered his intended lane of travel roughly perpendicular to the proper direction of travel.
At this moment the plaintiff rounded the corner, saw the Defendant in his lane and braked hard losing control of his bike and crashing.
The Defendant argued the Plaintiff was partly at fault as a more prudent motorist could have avoided the hazard he posed.  The Court disagreed and in doing so relied on the agony of collision principle finding the Defendant fully at fault.  Madam Justice Sharma provided the following reasons:

[50]         In my view, the phrase “agony of the moment” aptly describes the plaintiff’s situation. The plaintiff’s first reaction was to avoid colliding with the defendant, or an oncoming vehicle.  Therefore, it was a reasonable course of action for him to brake hard which caused his bike to fall and slide. The defendant agreed that in order to avoid hitting him, the plaintiff had to brake hard, and that made the plaintiff’s bike fall.

[51]         In my view the evidence is clear that the plaintiff was riding in a prudent and careful manner. There is no evidence that his speed was inappropriate for the conditions of the road or any other circumstance.

[52]          As noted earlier, I do not accept the defendant’s argument that once he lost sight of the defendant in front of him, the plaintiff should have slowed down more than he did. Also, I have already concluded the plaintiff was driving at an appropriate rate of speed, and that he had already slowed down.

[53]         Drivers are entitled to assume that other people will be driving in a prudent and safe manner. In Bern v. Jung, 2010 BCSC 730 the plaintiff lost control of a bicycle because of a sudden and unexpected presence of the defendant’s vehicle travelling in the wrong direction. The Court noted, at paras. 13-14, that the plaintiff was forced to act quickly and apply his brakes quickly and that he should not be found contributorily negligent for doing so.

[54]         In this case the plaintiff was entitled to assume that his friend had negotiated the curve safely; coming upon the defendant situated in front of him and perpendicular to his line of traffic was unexpected and sudden. The plaintiff cannot be blamed for doing what I find to be the only reasonable thing he could do to avoid a more serious accident: applying his brakes hard. I conclude it was the defendant’s string of actions (looking to the canyon, and trying to get back in position instead of waiting on the shoulder) that caused the accident.

[55]         For all those reasons, I find the defendant 100% liable for the accident.

Motorist Found Fully At Fault For Clipping Cyclist While Attempting to Pass

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, assessing fault for a collision involving a cyclist and a motorist.
In this week’s case (McGavin v. Talbot) the Plaintiff had merged onto the roadway where a bike lane ended.  Shortly thereafter the Defendant, proceeding in the same direction of travel, clipped the Plaintiff’s bike while a vehicle attempting to pass causing him to lose control and crash.  The motorist denied fault.  Mr. Justice Masuhara found fault rested fully with the motorist in these circumstances and provided the following reasons:

[20]         I find that Mr. McGavin had merged on the roadway at the end of the bike lane.  Mr. McGavin estimates he was riding at about 20-25 kmph which I accept.  I also find based on the testimony of Ms. Talbot, that Mr. McGavin was ahead of the Mr. Talbot’s pickup when the bike lane ended.  In my view, Mr. McGavin had the dominant position on the roadway beyond the end of the bike lane, and Mr. Talbot passed Mr. McGavin when there was not a safe distance between his pickup and Mr. McGavin to do so.  Mr. Talbot did not pass at a safe distance. 

[21]         I find the passing occurred before the X in the lane and before the start of guard rails for the Colquitz Bridge (Exhibit 1, Tab 4) and that the rear of the pickup driven by Mr. Talbot struck or clipped the handle bar of the bicycle ridden by the plaintiff causing the plaintiff to fall at about the start of the guard rails by the Colquitz Bridge. 

[22]         As a result, it is my determination that Mr. Talbot is entirely at fault for Mr. McGavin’s fall. 

[23]         My finding here is made on the bases that:

(a)            A cyclist has the same rights and duties of a driver of a vehicle pursuant to s. 183(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, s. 318;

(b)            A driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle must cause its vehicle to pass to the left of the other vehicle at a safe distance and must not cause or permit the vehicle to return to the right side of the highway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle pursuant to s. 157(1); and 

(c)             A driver of a vehicle must drive with due care and attention and must have reasonable consideration for other drivers pursuant to s. 144.

Vehicle Dealer Found at Fault For Crash By Thief By "Leaving a Truck Available to be Stolen"

If you own a vehicle that is stolen and the thief injures others in a collision can you be liable?  According to a case released today by the BC Supreme Court, the answer is yes.
In today’s case (Provost v. Bolton) the Defendant stole a truck owned by Chevrolet Dealership. After stealing the vehicle a police pursuit occurred and several crashes arose.
There was no dispute that the thief was liable.  In an interesting development the Court went on to find that the dealership was liable as well and the police bore some liability for engaging in the pursuit.  In finding the dealership partly liable Mr. Justice Kelleher provided the following reasons:

[14]         At about 8:58 a.m. on April 24, 2012, Mr. Katerenchuk left an unlocked one-ton 2011 GMC Sierra K2500 pickup truck (the “Truck”) outside a detail bay at the dealership Dueck. The Truck had been sold and was to be detailed that morning in preparation for delivery to the purchaser.

[15]         The Truck was left outside the dealership detail bay by Mr. Katerenchuk with the keys in the ignition, the engine running, and the doors unlocked. The Truck was parked in an area open to public view. Anyone walking or driving along Terminal Avenue past the dealership could see the Truck, along with other vehicles on the lot, if they looked in that direction.

[16]         The dealership is not fenced in. It is an open area where people can walk around the vehicles…

[19]         The Truck remained parked outside, with the keys in the ignition, the engine running, and doors unlocked for about 40 minutes when the defendant, Mr. Bolton, got in the Truck and drove away…

[146]     Here, I find that it is reasonably foreseeable that a stolen vehicle would cause serious damage and injuries to the police and bystanders in the vicinity of where the police are attempting to recover the stolen vehicle from the thief.

[147]     The Dueck employees called and expected the police to quickly attend to recovering the stolen Truck. Moreover, Dueck authorized OnStar to activate the GPS tracking system in the stolen Truck for the purpose of assisting the police in locating the Truck so that it could be recover

[148]     The circumstances in this case differ from those in cases like Hollett and Spagnolo where the accidents did not occur during the theft.

[149]     I am satisfied that, in these circumstances, it was reasonably foreseeable that persons and property may be injured or damaged during the recovery of a vehicle by the police in the immediate aftermath of a theft…

[161]     In sum, Dueck had a duty to Constable Provost and Ms. Brundige and the Attorney General to secure the vehicle in its lot and Dueck breached this duty and this breach caused the injuries and damages.

In finding the police partly liable for engaging in the pursuit the Court noted as follows:

[188]     Here, I conclude that the breach of the standard of care by RCMP officers is on the part of Constable Whitney, Constable Lee and Corporal Waldron. All three officers engaged in a high speed pursuit of the truck in an urban area in the middle of the day. Moreover, they did not appropriately comply with an order to terminate the pursuit when it was made by Staff Sergeant Stark and repeated by Corporal Peters.

[189]     Constable Whitney heard the order to discontinue the pursuit. His duty was to deactivate his lights and sirens (which he did) and to stop the vehicle at the side of the road and state his location. He did not stop and do that. Instead, he continued following the Truck on River Road…

[201]     Constables Lee and Whitney and Corporal Waldron proceeded to follow the vehicle. I find that they were, as Mr. Laughlin and Constable Hartigan testified, proceeding quickly. Their actions, on a balance of probabilities, caused Mr. Bolton to continue to drive at a high rate of speed. On the evidence, but for their pursuit, the accident with Ms. Brundige would not have occurred.

[202]     I find the defendant, the Minister of Justice for the Province of British Columbia, liable for the negligence of the officers.

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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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