Court Finds Abuse of Process for Liability Denial After Careless Driving Conviction


Useful reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, finding that it is an ‘abuse of process‘ pursuant to Rule 9-5(1)(d) for a Defendant to deny the issue of liability in a personal injury lawsuit after they have been convicted of careless driving as a result of the same collision.
In this week’s case (Ulmer v. Weidmann) the Plaintiff’s husband was killed when his motorcycle was struck by a vehicle operated by the Defendant.  The Plaintiff sued for damages pursuant to the Family Compensation Act.
Following the collision the Defendant was charged with “driving without due care and attention” under section 144(1)(a) of the BC Motor Vehicle Act.  He contested this charge but ultimately was found guilty following trial in the BC Provincial Court.
The Defendant then denied fault for the crash in the Wrongful Death lawsuit and claimed the Plaintiff was partly responsible.  Mr. Justice Truscott rejected this argument and found the Defendant solely responsible for the fatal collision.  The Court went further and found that while a party convicted under s. 144(1)(a) of the Motor Vehicle Act can argue an opposing motorist is partly to blame for a crash, it is an abuse of process for the convicted party to outright deny the issue of fault.  The Court provided the following useful reasons:

[83]         In my opinion the finding of driving without due care and attention in Provincial Court was akin to a finding of negligence against Mr. Weidmann, because his manner of driving was found to have departed from the standard of a reasonable man and he failed to avoid liability by proving he took all reasonable care in the circumstances.

[84]         I agree with plaintiff’s counsel that it was an abuse of process for the defendants to deny full liability in their statement of defence as this constituted an attempt to re-litigate the findings of the Provincial Court that were necessary for Steven Weidmann’s conviction of driving without due care and attention. This was an attempt to undermine the integrity of the adjudicative process which is not to be allowed.

[85]         I do not conclude however that the findings essential to Mr. Weidmann’s conviction in Provincial Court prevented Mr. Weidmann from alleging contributory negligence against Mr. Ulmer in this action…

[91]         While I have decided that there was no negligence on Mr. Ulmer contributing to the collision, based upon the evidence that I have accepted, I cannot say that this was a defence advanced in bad faith for the ulterior purpose of emotionally disturbing the plaintiff and putting pressure on her to settle at a figure favourable to the defendants.

[92]         Although I have concluded that it was an abuse of process by the defendants to deny liability completely, they were not guilty of an abuse of process in maintaining the defence of contributory negligence of Mr. Ulmer at all times.

The Plaintiff was ultimately awarded damages for her accident related losses and these included $10,000 for ‘nervous shock’.  Paragraphs 97-215 of the Reasons for Judgement are worth reviewing for Mr. Justice Truscott’s thorough review of the law of nervous shock claims.

Abuse of Process, bc injury law, Family Compensation Act, Mr. Justice Truscott, nervous shock, Rule 9, Rule 9-5, Rule 9-5(1), Rule 9-5(1)(d), section 144 motor vehicle act, section 144(1)(a) motor vehicle act, Ulmer v. Weidmann, Wrongful Death

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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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