More on Liability – Stop Signs, Speeding and Fault
Reasons for judgment were released this week dealing with the issue of fault for a car crash where one motorist bound by a stop sign enters an intersection and gets hit by a speeding vehicle.
In this week’s case (McKinnon v. Peterson) the Plaintiff stopped at a stop sign heading northbound on Marlborough Avenue at the intersection of Kingsway. As the Plaintiff entered the intersection and almost cleared it he was struck by the defendants vehicle who was travelling westbound. The Plaintiff’s vehicle was struck on the right passenger side in a “violent” collision which caused all four tires of the defendant’s vehicle to leave the ground and “drove the plaintiff’s vehicle… over the curb, flattening a stop sign, shearing a light standard, and through a garden bed, and finally into the front of a restaurant. ”
When a motorist leaves a stop sign and attempts to cross an intersection on a through highway the motorist needs to comply with s. 175 of the Motor Vehicle Act which holds in part that:
175(1) If a vehicle that is about to enter a through highway has stopped in compliance with section 186,
(a) the driver of the vehicle must yield the right of way to traffic that has entered the intersection on the through highway or is approaching so closely on it that it constitutes an immediate hazard, and
(b) having yielded, the driver may proceed with caution.
(2) If a vehicle is entering a through highway in compliance with subsection (1), traffic approaching the intersection on the highway must yield the right of way to the entering vehicle while it is proceeding into or across the highway.
Mr. Justice Hinkson held that while the Plaintiff entered the intersection at a time when the Defendant did not constitute an “immediate hazard” the Plaintiff failed to proceed with caution by “failing to observe the defendant’s vehicle that was there to be seen” and for this the Plaintiff was found at fault.
The analysis did not end there, however, as the Defendant was also found at fault for speeding and failing to yield the right of way to the plaintiff who gained the right of way after he entered the intersection at a time when the Defendant did not pose an immediate hazard.
Specifically Mr. Justice Hinkson found that “the defendant was traveling at a speed of close to double the posted speed limit as he approached the intersection of Kingsway and Marlborough Avenue on November 2, 2006, and that he was unable to do so safely. He failed to yield the right of way to the plaintiff.”
The Court went on to find the Defendant 2/3 at fault for this collision and the Plaintiff 1/3 at fault. In doing so Mr. Justice Hinkson described the relative fault of the parties as follows:
 I am unable to conclude that such a division of liability is warranted in this case. Mr. Petersen was travelling at what I have found to be an unsafe speed in all of the circumstances, and knew, or should have known that he would be unable to safely stop for vehicles that might choose to cross Kingsway, having acquired the right of way to do so. His conduct in these circumstances was reckless.
 On the other hand, Mr. McKinnon chose to cross a six lane street at other than a traffic controlled intersection, knowing that vehicles travelled that road at that time of day at speeds greater than posted. In so doing, he was obliged to proceed with caution, and I find that he did not.
 Weighing the respective negligence of the parties, I consider that the defendant must bear the majority of the liability for the collision. I conclude that the defendant’s conduct was considerably more negligent than the plaintiff’s, and that the defendant must bear two-thirds of the blame for the collision, and the plaintiff the remaining one-third. There will be judgment accordingly.
Intersection crashes are some of the most complicated cases when determing the relative blameworthiness of each party. While each case turns on its own facts and the results can very depending on all the subtleties of evidence in any given case, this decision is worth reviewing for a careful analysis of some of the factors that come into play when deciding whom to blame to what degree for an intersection crash.