Motorist Found 40% At Fault for Striking Jay-Walking Teenager

(Update: The below decision was upheld by the BC Court of Appeal in reasons for judgement dated August 3, 2011)

As I’ve previously written, motorists travelling with the right of way can still be found at fault for a collision in British Columbia.  If you have the right of way but know or ought to know that someone is not yielding you can be found at fault if you fail to take reasonable steps to avoid a collision in these circumstances.  This principle was well demonstrated in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry.
In today’s case (Walter v. Plummer) the 16 year old pedestrian Plaintiff was struck by the Defendant’s motorcycle.  The Plaintiff was jaywalking at the time of the collision.  The Plaintiff crossed in front of a stopped tractor trailer and stepped into the Defendant’s lane of travel.  This made it difficult to see the Plaintiff.  The Defendant was not speeding.  Despite this the Defendant was found partially at fault for the crash for failing to take reasonable care in all of the circumstances leading up to the crash.
The Court concluded that the Defendant was careless because she ought to have anticipated jaywalkers at the time and could have taken greater care in operating her motorcycle.  Mr. Justice Barrow provided the following useful summary in explaining why both parties were at fault for this crash:

[25] I am satisfied that Mr. Walter was crossing the street at a casual walking pace, neither particularly fast nor particularly slow. Ms. Plummer was travelling approximately one to two feet to the left of the mid-point of the southbound right turn lane. She saw Mr. Walter for the first time when he emerged from in front of the tractor-trailer truck and walked into her path of travel.

[26]         Based on Dr. Toor’s and Ms. Plummer’s evidence, I am satisfied that the point of impact between Mr. Walter and Ms. Plummer’s motorcycle was two or three feet into the right turn lane and that Mr. Walter was visible to Ms. Plummer for perhaps two more feet as he passed from in front of the tractor-trailer truck to the boundary of the right turn lane…

[41]         There are several significant features of the circumstances facing Ms. Plummer that serve to elevate the degree of care required.

[42]         The first is the reasonably foreseeable risk of jaywalking pedestrians. The defendant was aware that students frequently jaywalked across Rutland Road. Ms. White said that, in her experience, there were many jaywalking students in that area shortly after the schools are dismissed. Further, the risk was not just of any jaywalking pedestrians but of students. The fact that the foreseeable pedestrians would be students is significant because young people may take less care for their own safety than adults.

[43]         A second and related circumstance is that Ms. Plummer knew that the northbound lane was empty and that the vehicles in the left turn and through southbound lanes were stopped. The prospect of students jaywalking in that situation is higher than it would be if there was traffic moving in both directions.

[44]         Finally, and significantly, Ms. Plummer was passing a tractor-trailer unit stopped in the through lane. That truck entirely obstructed her view of the through lane in front of it. If there were pedestrians attempting to cross, it would have been apparent to her that she would not be able to see them.

[45]         All of these features serve elevate the degree of caution necessary to meet the standard of care. To proceed at 40 kilometres per hour passing a stationary truck in an area known to be frequented by jaywalking students is negligent. It is a situation in which a driver ought to have been proceeding in an “alerted” state, to borrow from the categories used in the perception-response studies.

[46]         As to Mr. Walter, he owed a duty to take reasonable care for his own safety. He breached that duty in a number of ways. He crossed other than at a marked crosswalk, and thus contrary to the statutory obligations he was under. Further, just as it should have been apparent to Ms. Plummer that she could not see crossing pedestrians, it ought to have been apparent to Mr. Walter that he could not see oncoming traffic. Finally, and most significantly, unlike Ms. Plummer who was looking where she was going, Mr. Walter did not look into the oncoming lane at all to determine if he could safely cross. His negligence is greater than that of Ms. Plummer. I apportion liability 60 percent to Mr. Walter and 40 percent to Ms. Plummer.

bc injury law, fault, jaywalking, liability, motorcycle collisions, Mr. Justice Barrow, Pedestrian Collisions, statutory right of way, Walter v. Plummer

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

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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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