Jury Dismissal Of Intersection Crash Claim Upheld on Appeal
(Accident Reconstruction Software courtesy of SmartDraw)
Adding to this ever-growing database of BC motor vehicle liability cases, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Court of Appeal upholding a Jury Verdict dismissing an injury claim following an intersection crash.
In today’s case (Bailey v. Jang) the Plaintiff was driving in a restricted-traffic curb lane as she approached an intersection. At the same time the main lane in her direction of travel was backed up leaving a gap at the intersection. The Defendant tried to make a left hand turn through the gap and the vehicles collided. The Plaintiff sued for damages but her claim was dismissed with the Jury finding that the Defendant was not negligent. The Plaintiff’s appeal was also dismissed with the Court finding that the jury’s verdict was not unreasonable. In doing so the BC Court of Appeal provided the following reasons addressing some of the principles that come into play for crashes involving left-hand turning vehicles:
 Section 174 of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, states:
Yielding right of way on left turn
174. When a vehicle is in an intersection and its driver intends to turn left, the driver must yield the right of way to traffic approaching from the opposite direction that is in the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard, but having yielded and given a signal as required by sections 171 and 172, the driver may turn the vehicle to the left, and traffic approaching the intersection from the opposite direction must yield the right of way to the vehicle making the left turn.
 Although, as asserted by the appellant, it is a logical corollary of the jury’s verdict that they concluded the appellant was 100% at fault for the accident, it is important to remember that the principal focus of this appeal is whether there was evidence on which the jury properly could have found that the respondent was not negligent.
 The appellant relies on Pacheco v. Robinson, (1993), 75 B.C.L.R. (2d) 273 para. 15 where this Court stated:
… the dominant driver who is proceeding through the intersection is generally entitled to continue and the servient left-turning driver must yield the right of way. The existence of a left-turning vehicle does not raise a presumption that something unexpected might happen and cast a duty on the dominant driver to take extra care. …
These comments were noted in Salaam v. Abramovic, 2009 BCSC 111 para. 26.
 The quotation of legal principle from Hiscox v. Armstrong, 2001 BCCA 258 and Pacheco is based on circumstances where the left-turning driver “proceeds through an intersection in complete disregard of his statutory duty to yield the right-of-way”. In Pacheco this Court found that the defendant “totally failed to determine whether [the] turn [could] be made safely”. In Salaam, the court held that the dominant driver “was there to be seen from 450 feet away” and that “[t]he plaintiff did not determine whether her turn could be done safely”. Such drivers cannot shift responsibility to the driver who has the right-of-way.
 Other cases relied on by the appellant show that a dominant driver is not without obligation. This was recognized in Pacheco wherein this Court distinguished a decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal on the basis that “[t]here was no indication here that traffic on the left hand side of the plaintiff had stopped so that the plaintiff should have been alerted to a situation of potential danger”. An obligation on a dominant driver to take care was recognized in Berar v. Manhas,  B.C.J. No. 677, Reynolds. v. Weston,  B.C.J. No. 49, and Clark v. Stricker, 2001 BCSC 657.
 These cases illustrate the fact that a left-turning driver is not without rights as is clear from the wording of s. 174. Too often drivers proceed through an intersection as if left-turning drivers have no rights. In each situation, the specific circumstances dictate whether a left-turning driver is at fault for a collision, in whole, in part, or not at all.