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Mother Found 50% at Fault For Striking Her Son With Vehicle

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing fault following the somewhat unusual fact pattern of a mother striking her own son with a vehicle.

In today’s case (Pringle v. Pringle) the Court described the circumstances and some of the evidence surrounding the collision as follows:

[2]             The collision took place after midnight, in a roundabout driveway just outside Mr. Pringle’s apartment building. Mrs. Pringle had driven over to speak with Mr. Pringle. Mr. Pringle’s sister, Emily Pringle, accompanied her mother. The visit had not gone well. It ended when Mr. Pringle told his visitors to leave and threatened to call the police. They did as he asked, but Mrs. Pringle accidentally took Mr. Pringle’s keys with her when she left. They met in the driveway a short while later to return the keys.

[3]             Immediately before the collision, Mrs. Pringle was at the wheel of her car with the ignition on. Emily was sitting in the front seat on the passenger side. Mr. Pringle was standing outside the car. Mr. Pringle and Mrs. Pringle were arguing through an open window.

[4]             Mr. Pringle testifies that what happened next was that Mrs. Pringle began to drive away, circling the roundabout, while he was standing on the roadway. Mrs. Pringle was driving angrily and recklessly. When he realized that she was driving back towards him and was not going to veer away, he jumped and was hit by the moving car’s windshield.

The Court found both parties equally liable for the crash.  In faulting both the driver and pedestrian Mr. Justice Gomery provided the following reasons:

[48]         I find that the vehicle was in motion at the moment of impact. I come to this conclusion taking into account the force of the impact, Mr. Pringle’s evidence, and that Mrs. Pringle and Emily Pringle ultimately conceded that the vehicle was in motion. Considering the force of the impact, I find that the vehicle was not barely in motion but was substantially underway.

[49]         I reject the defence thesis that Mr. Pringle leapt at or in front of the moving vehicle. It is simply implausible that Mr. Pringle would attempt to attack a car with his bare hands or, if he did, that he would crash into it backside first. Having heard Mr. Pringle’s evidence and considering his conduct before and after the accident, I do not think that he leapt in front of the moving vehicle in an attempt at self-harm.

[50]         The vehicle struck Mr. Pringle in the driveway and I find that he was standing in the driveway as it approached him. Mrs. Pringle should not have been driving so quickly in the roundabout that she was unable to avoid hitting Mr. Pringle. I find that she had an opportunity to stop or take evasive action to avoid hitting Mr. Pringle and failed to do so. This was not an inevitable accident. Mrs. Pringle was negligent.

[51]         I accept Mr. Pringle’s evidence that, as he saw the car approaching him, he viewed himself as engaged in a power struggle with Mrs. Pringle and failed to give way to the approaching vehicle until it was too late, at which point he leapt in the air and made contact with the windshield.

[52]         Mrs. Pringle had the right of way and Mr. Pringle’s failure to give way immediately to the approaching vehicle was negligent.

[53]         Where damage has been caused through the fault of the plaintiff and the defendant, s. 1(1) of the Negligence Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 333 provides that the defendant is only liable in proportion to the degree to which she was at fault. Section 1(2) provides:

(2) Despite subsection (1), if, having regard to all the circumstances of the case, it is not possible to establish different degrees of fault, the liability must be apportioned equally.

[54]         I am unable to say which of Mr. Pringle and Mrs. Pringle bears the greater fault for the collision. Pursuant to s. 1(2), I apportion their fault equally at 50% each. The defendants are liable for 50% of Mr. Pringle’s damages.

bc injury law, Mr. Justice Gomery, Pedestrian Collisions, Pringle v. Pringle, roundabout