Fault For Right Hand Turning Vehicle Striking Cyclist Discussed by BC Supreme Court

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the issue of fault for a collision involving a right hand turning vehicle and a cyclist attempting to pass the vehicle on the inside lane.

In this week’s case (Nelson v. Lafarge Canada Inc.) the Plaintiff was “cycling hard and fast alongside the Truck as the two approached the Intersection in tandem.  Mr. Nelson’s speed exceeded the Truck’s and it is apparent he was overtaking it on the right as the Truck turned onto Nanaimo.”  There was video of the actual collision presented in evidence and it demonstrated that the Truck driver “did engage the Truck’s right signal prior to executing his right turn onto Nanaimo.  I accept that he did so well before he arrived at the Intersection after the light had turned green.”
As the truck turned, on a still green light, a collision occurred.  Madam Justice Dickson found both parties to blame for the collision with the cyclist bearing 65% of the fault.  In reaching this concluding the Court provided the following reasons:
[77]         I agree with counsel for the defendants that Mr. Conarroe was the dominant driver in the circumstances of this Accident.  He was proceeding on a green light in the appropriate lane and had signaled his right turn well in advance.  He had also looked around as he turned onto Nanaimo and, generally speaking, was entitled to assume that others would obey the rules of the road.  Nevertheless, the presence of cyclists in the adjacent curb lane was both proper and predictable.  In addition, I have found Mr. Conarroe could and should have kept a more vigilant look-out in the period leading up to the right turn to ensure that it could be safely made.
[78]         Had Mr. Conarroe kept a more vigilant look-out after he stopped for the red light on Hastings and before he started his right turn he would have observed Mr. Nelson cycling hard and fast in the curb lane behind or beside him.  It would have been apparent that Mr. Nelson was focusing straight ahead and might attempt to overtake on the right as the two approached the green light, despite the riskiness of such conduct.  Armed with this knowledge, Mr. Conarroe could have avoided the Accident by waiting to commence his turn in the Intersection until it was clear either that Mr. Nelson had abandoned the unfolding attempt to pass on the right or completed it successfully.  His failure to do so was a failure to take reasonable care and a contributing cause of the Accident.
[79]         Mr. Nelson also failed to take reasonable care for his own safety, which failure was a contributing cause of the Accident.  Although, based on Jang, I find that the curb lane was a through lane for cyclists I also find it was unsafe for him to attempt to pass the right-turning Truck when there was little, if any, margin for error associated with such an attempt.  As noted, this was a breach of s. 158(2)(a) of the Act.  It also fell well below the standard of care to be expected of a reasonably competent cyclist in all of the circumstances.
[80]         Mr. Nelson suffered serious harm and damage as a result of the Accident.  The damage has two proximate causes:  the negligence of both parties.  In these circumstances, liability must be apportioned between the two.
[81]         In assessing the respective fault and blameworthiness of the parties I must evaluate the extent or degree to which each departed from the standard of care owed under the circumstances.
[82]         In balancing blameworthiness, I find Mr. Nelson’s conduct constituted a significant departure from the requisite standard of care which created a risk of serious harm.  He was aware of the Truck travelling eastbound on his left but focused only on his own path forward and did not check for an activated right turn signal, which was there to be seen.  Instead, he tried to pass the Truck on the right without first determining whether such a movement could be made safely.  In my view, such conduct was very careless.
[83]         Mr. Conarroe’s conduct also constituted a significant departure from the requisite standard of care, taking into account the vigilance reasonably to be expected of a professional truck driver.  He waited far too long to look carefully and thoroughly around himself as he prepared to turn right.  This is particularly true given his knowledge of the Truck’s many blind spots.  In consequence, Mr. Conarroe was unaware of the fact that Mr. Nelson was cycling hard and fast in the adjacent curb lane after the light changed colour at the Intersection.  This failure was not momentary or minor, and it carried the risk of foreseeable harm of considerable magnitude.  In my view, however, it was not of the same degree as Mr. Nelson’s failure to take reasonable care for his own safety in attempting to pass a right-turning Truck on the right.
[84]         In all of the circumstances, I conclude that 65% of the fault for the Accident should be borne by Mr. Nelson and 35% should be borne by Mr. Conarroe.

bc injury law, bicycle accidents, Cycling Collisions, Madam Justice Dickson, Nelson v. Lafarge Canada Inc, passing on the right, Section 158 Motor Vehicle Act, section 183 motor vehicle act, Section 190 Motor Vehicle Act

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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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