Pedestrian Struck on Road at Night Found 90% at Fault for Crash

Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with the issue of fault in a pedestrian collision case.
In today’s case (O’Connor v. James) the Plaintiff was walking along No. 6 Road in Richmond, BC, when he was struck by the Defendants vehicle.  The Plaintiff consumed some alcohol before the collision and was struck while he was walking on the actual roadway (as opposed to the shoulder) at the time of impact.  As a consequence the Court found that the Plaintiff was in breach of various provisions of the BC Motor (Vehicle) Act.
Specifically, Mr. Justice Burnyeat made the following findings of fact with respect to this accident:
[22] It was the consensus of all witnesses that Mr. O’Connor was dressed entirely in black that night and was wearing no reflective clothing.  I also find that the approaching vehicle driven by Mr. Hockley had the low beams activated.  I also find that the street light at the corner of No. 6 Road and Triangle Road was not operating.  Taking into account all of the evidence, I find that Mr. O’Connor was on the road surface, and not on the grass median beside the southbound lane of No. 6 Road when he was hit….

[23] I accept the evidence of Ms. Journeau, Mr. Hockley, Ms. Kamayah, and Mr. James that Mr. O’Connor was in the southbound lane of No. 6 Road when he was hit by the vehicle driven by Mr. James.  I find that it would have been impossible for the collision to have occurred on the grassy median and for the vehicle driven by Mr. James to have come to rest where it did if the contact with Mr. O’Connor had been on the grassy median.  Walking where he was walking, Mr. O’Connor violated a number of provisions of the Motor (Vehicle) Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 319:

179      (2)  A pedestrian must not leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close it is impracticable for the driver to yield the right of way.

182      (1)  If there is a sidewalk that is reasonable passable on either or both sides of a highway, a pedestrian must not walk on a roadway.

(2)  If there is no sidewalk, a pedestrian walking along or on a highway must walk only on the extreme left side of the roadway or the shoulder of the highway, facing traffic approaching from the opposite direction.

[35] From the evidence, I make the following findings:  (a) the temperature that night in the area approached the freezing point; (b) the road surface was either icy or covered with dew as a result of the new-freezing atmospheric conditions; (c) the posted speed limit on No. 6 Road is 50 km/h; (d) the vehicle being driving by Mr. James was travelling at somewhere between 55 km/h and 65 km/h that night; (e) it was the intention of Mr. James to make a left turn at the intersection of No. 6 Road and Triangle Road and this intersection which would be to the left of Mr. James was being approached by Mr. James; (f) the vehicle driven by Mr. Hockley was being driven towards Mr. James and the low-beam lights of the Hockley vehicle were activated; and (g) the street light at the intersection of No. 6 Road and Triangle Road was not operative so that illumination of No. 6 Road at that point was diminished.

The court went on to find that the Pedestrian Plaintiff was 90% to blame for this collision and that the Defendant motorist was 10% to blame.  In dividing fault this way Mr. Justice Burnyeat made the following analysis:

I am satisfied that Mr. James was negligent in the operation of the vehicle which struck Mr. O’Connor.  Mr. James ignored the road conditions, visibility on No. 6 Road, the speed limits, his knowledge that there were no sidewalks, and his knowledge that there might be pedestrians.  All of these factors contributed to a need for Mr. James to drive more slowly than even the speed limit which was in effect.  Mr. James owed a duty of care to Mr. O’Connor and did not meet that duty by driving his car at the speed he was going when it hit Mr. O’Connor….

It is clear that the judgment of Mr. O’Connor was somewhat impaired by alcohol.  As well, he was dressed entirely in black without reflective clothing.  His clothing made it difficult if not impossible for drivers to see him.  Contrary to s. 182(2) of the Motor (Vehicle) Act, Mr. O’Connor was not walking facing traffic, and was not walking on the shoulder of No. 6 Road.  Mr. James has shown that the conduct of Mr. O’Connor that evening showed a want of reasonable care for his own safety and that this contributed to causing his injuries.  Mr. James has proven that Mr. O’Connor did not conduct himself in a reasonable manner so that his injuries could have been avoided or, at least, diminished.  In the circumstances, I assess liability at 90% against Mr. O’Connor and 10% against Mr. James.

fault, jaywalking, liability, Mr. Justice Burnyeat, O'Connor v. James, pedestrian accidents

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ERIK
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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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