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Left Turning Driver Found 100% at Fault For Striking Pedestrian in a Marked Crosswalk

Adding to this site’s archived judgement database addressing collisions involving pedestrians, reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing fault for a collision involving a left hand turning vehicle and a pedestrian.
In last week’s case (Han v. Chahal) the Plaintiff was walking in a marked crosswalk southbound across 72nd Avenue in Surrey, BC.  At the same time the Defendant motorist approached from the oncoming direction and attempted to turn left.  The Defendant struck the Plaintiff.   The Defendant conceded fault at trial but argued the Plaintiff was 25% responsible.  Mr. Justice Verhoeven disagreed finding the Defendant was solely to blame for this collision.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:
[18]         I find that the plaintiff was struck in the crosswalk, just as she entered the second of the two westbound lanes.  She testified that she had proceeded about four steps when she was struck.  The independent witness, Mr. Singh, estimated that she was struck after she had crossed one lane.  Ms. Chahal’s evidence about the accident details was generally vague.  However she was turning left and would presumably have been attempting to enter the left lane of the two westbound lanes, as she was obliged to do pursuant to s. 165 of the Act.  Thus, I conclude that the plaintiff was well into the intersection when she was struck, and some seconds had elapsed since she had left the curb.  I conclude that at the time she left the curb there was absolutely no reason for the plaintiff to be especially concerned for her safety in relation to the defendant’s vehicle.  She was aware of the defendant’s vehicle on the other side of the intersection, but was entitled to assume that the defendant would obey the law and yield the right-of-way to her.
[19]         It is not entirely clear whether the defendant stopped at the light before proceeding into the intersection and striking the plaintiff.  The plaintiff’s evidence was that the defendant’s vehicle was moving when she first saw it, but it stopped.  The defendant’s evidence is more consistent with her simply proceeding into the intersection on a green light, without stopping.  This scenario is also more consistent with the evidence of Mr. Singh, who testified that he was stopped at the red light when the collision occurred, and his evidence that the defendant was going “fast”.  This scenario is also supported by the evidence of the plaintiff that she waited at the curb after activating the pedestrian signal, then proceeded into the crosswalk after the walk signal came on, at which time I infer that the light facing Ms. Chahal would definitely be green, and by my conclusion that there was a lapse of time between when Ms. Han left the curb and when she was struck.  Finally, had it been necessary for the defendant to stop, there is a greater chance that she would have seen the plaintiff, which of course she did not.  I conclude that the defendant entered the intersection on a green light, without stopping, and struck the plaintiff in the crosswalk well after she had left the curb.
[20]         The defendants have not satisfied the onus on them to establish that the plaintiff knew or ought to have known that the defendant driver was not going to grant her the right-of-way, and that, at that point of time, the plaintiff could reasonably have avoided the accident.  There is no basis in the evidence to suggest that after the plaintiff was in the crosswalk she ought to have seen the defendant’s vehicle approaching, realized that she was not seen by its driver, and somehow evaded the collision.  The idea that she could have made eye contact with the driver of the vehicle at some point in time is highly unrealistic in the circumstances, and is no more than speculative. In summary, the plaintiff did not have a duty to positively ascertain the defendant’s intentions nor did she have any means to do so.
[21]         The defendants rely upon Brumm v. Inglis, [1997] B.C.J. No. 1181. However, that case is clearly distinguishable.  There, the plaintiff walked in front of the defendant’s vehicle as it was stopped at an exit from a driveway onto a busy street, waiting for a break in heavy traffic.  The plaintiff could see the driver of the vehicle.  She chose to walk in front of the vehicle, which pulled forward as she did so.  In this context, Mr. Justice Pitfield stated:
She knew of the defendant’s intended actions. She knew or should have known there was danger to her personal safety if she passed in front of the vehicle without first making eye contact with the defendant and the vehicle accelerated suddenly in an attempt to enter the busy flow of traffic.
[22]         The circumstances of the case at bar bear no resemblance to those in Brumm.  More specifically, in the case at bar, it cannot be said that the plaintiff “knew of the defendant’s intended actions” other than perhaps in a general way, nor can it be said that there was something that she realistically could or should have done or refrained from doing in consideration for her own safety.
[23]         I conclude that the defendants have not established that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent.  It follows that the defendants are fully liable for the accident.

bc injury law, Han v. Chahal, Mr. Justice Verhoeven, Pedestrian Collisions