Driver Faultless For Loss of Control Caused by "Agony of Collision"
(Update May 30, 2012 – The Plaintiff’s appeal from the below decision was dismissed by the BC Court of Appeal in reasons for judgement released today)
As previously discussed, the principle of “agony of collision” can excuse a driver who loses control of their vehicle if the loss of control is preceded by an unexpected imminent danger not caused by them. Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Penticton Registry, demonstrating this.
In this week’s case (Robbins v. Webb) the Defendant was driving a pick-up truck in a southbound direction. The roads were ‘very slippery‘ due to winter driving conditions. The Plaintiff was approaching in the on-coming direction and began to fishtail. The Defendant responded by hitting his brakes. This caused the Defendant’s vehicle to lock up and proceed into the oncoming lane of travel. The vehicles collided.
The Plaintiff sued the Defendant for the injuries he sustained in this crash. The case was dismissed with the Court finding that the Plaintiff was careless in initially losing control and this resulted in the Defendants reasonable reaction. In dismissing the lawsuit Mr. Justice Melnick provided the following reasons:
 Thus, I accept that Mr. Webb was fully in his own southbound lane when he first commenced braking. I also find that the reason Mr. Webb applied his brakes hard, locking them and causing his vehicle to slide into the northbound lane, was because Mr. Robbins had temporarily lost control of his vehicle due to the poor tread on the Cobalt’s tires coupled with his driving too fast for the icy road conditions, which caused the left rear of the Cobalt to skid sideways in a clockwise direction, crossing partially into the southbound lane. Mr. Webb reacted to a situation precipitated by Mr. Robbins, not the other way around.
 It may well be that if Mr. Webb had not braked, his vehicle would not have skidded into the oncoming lane. Mr. Robbins was probably in the process of regaining control of the Cobalt when he was struck. But, in the heat of the moment, one cannot say that Mr. Webb’s reaction was inappropriate. To his right was a steep uphill bank, so his options were very limited. He reacted to the position he found himself in as a result of the negligence of Mr. Robbins.