No Liability For Motorist Struck While Stopped on Painted Stop Line

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, considering sections 129 and 186 of the Motor Vehicle Act and liability for a crash based on the positioning of a stopped vehicle at an intersection.
In this week’s case (Eissfeldt (Guardian ad litem of) v. Eissfeldt) the Defendant was stopped “on..the painted stop line” in a desginated left hand turn lane at an intersection.

An intersection collision occurred between other motorists propelling one of the vehicles into the stopped Defendant’s truck.  The Plaintiff, a passenger in one of the other vehicles, sued the drivers of all three vehicles arguing all were to blame.  The Plaintiff argued that the Defendant truck driver was negligent in improperly stopping his vehicle “on rather than behind the painted stop line” arguing that this was in breach of section 186 of the Motor Vehicle Act.
Mr. Justice McEwan disagreed and dismissed the claim against the motorist.  In doing so the Court found that section 186 was limited only to stop sign controlled intersections (as opposed to traffic light controlled intersections) but in any event the Defendant’s actions were not negligent.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[18] …. Section 186 applies to intersections controlled by stop signs, not traffic control signals. The duty outlined in s. 129 is to stop before the marked crosswalk. There is no question that Mr. Brown did so, as can be seen in the photographs. There is no suggestion in the Act, and none of the case law supports the notion that where stop lines are painted in the left turn lane ahead of a crosswalk, there is a duty to stopbefore rather than on them, as long as the vehicle does not enter the marked crosswalk. In this regard Mr. Brown’s acknowledgment that he intended to stop before the line may mark a slight deviation from the standard he meant to achieve, but it is not evidence that obliges the court to impose a higher standard on Mr. Brown than that set out in the section. It is not at all clear that the stop lines are anything more than guides to ensure that vehicles do not encroach the crosswalk and the intersection, which are the duties imposed by the section.

[19] As the cases show, statutory duties have been superimposed on the common law duty of care and may create a modified standard in the circumstances to which they pertain. The context remains important, however. The concern of a motor vehicle operator at an intersection controlled by a traffic signal is for pedestrians and traffic lawfully crossing or turning in the intersection. The assessment of risk begins with the premise that one may rely on other drivers to obey the rules of the road, subject to the qualifications set out in the cases. (See paras. 8 and 9 herein).

[20] The occurrence of a random event precipitated by the failure of others to obey the rules of the road (I do not know which of the other defendants this may be or to what degree they may share liability), is not the sort of harm that could be described as foreseeable by Mr. Brown. In the circumstances it is obvious that he was in no position to react as the collision transpired.

[21] There is simply no basis, in my view, for a finding that Mr. Brown failed in his statutory duty, which was to avoid the crosswalk and the intersection at the red light. That duty did not extend to anticipating the possibility that a vehicle might suddenly lose control as a result of a collision and veer into his path, obliging him to guess where to place his vehicle in order to avoid such a contingency.

[22] Giving full consideration to the fact that the court must be very careful not to permit litigating in slices and the risk of embarrassing consequences as a result of ruling on an incomplete view of the case, I consider this to be an example of a circumstance where it is appropriate to apply Rule 9-7(15). Mr. Brown was not in breach of the relevant statutory duty found in s. 129. Section 186 of the Motor Vehicle Act does not apply. Whether or not the impact with his vehicle contributed in any respect to the plaintiff’s claims, Mr. Brown’s vehicle was not where it was as a result of any negligence on his part.

Eissfeldt (Guardian ad litem of) v. Eissfeldt, Mr. Justice McEwan, Section 129 Motor Vehicle Act, section 186 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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