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Plaintiff 50% At Fault for Running Yellow Light

As the BC Court of Appeal recently confirmed, there is a range of possible splits of fault following many intersection collisions.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this frequent type of collision.
In last week’s case (Ziani v. Thede) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 accident in Vancouver, BC.  He was travelling west on Kingsway.  As he approached the intersection of Boundary Road the light turned yellow.  He increased his speed to run the light.  At the same time the Defendant was approaching from the opposite direction on Kingsway making a left hand turn onto Boundary.  The Defendant testified that he had an advance green arrow although this evidence was not accepted with the Court finding that the Defendant was faced with the same yellow light that the Plaintiff had.

Madam Justice Bruce found that both motorists were equally to blame and in doing so provided the following reasons for judgement:

[24] On the facts of this case, the plaintiff entered the intersection on a yellow light and thus cannot be said to have the right of way. I am also satisfied that the defendant did not have an advance green light in his favour when he was attempting to turn left. Given the timing of the light sequences, and the evidence of the two independent witnesses, it would have been impossible for the defendant to have faced a green light when he was attempting to turn left. Had the defendant faced an advance green turn signal, the witnesses would not have seen a red light for oncoming east/west traffic at the time of the collision. Next in the sequence would have been a green light for through traffic on Kingsway. Moreover, Ms. Gjerding clearly testified that the defendant’s blue van was stopped in the left turn lane waiting for the through traffic to clear. This evidence is inconsistent with the defendant having the right of way with an advance green light.

[25] Thus on the facts of this case, the competing duties described in ss. 174 and 128 of the Motor Vehicle Act are squarely in issue. The burden of proof described in Dawes is not applicable where neither of the drivers had a presumptive right of way. Instead, the Court must examine the conduct of each driver to determine if they complied with their respective duties under ss. 174 and 128 of the Motor Vehicle Act…

[27] In my view, it is apparent that the plaintiff decided to increase his speed and “run” the yellow light in contravention of s. 128 of the Motor Vehicle Act in order to avoid the red light. It was only coincidental with the light turning yellow that he saw the defendant’s vehicle. It was not the presence of the defendant’s vehicle that led to the plaintiff’s decision to increase his speed in order to avoid a collision…

[29] In this case, however, I find the defendant did not assess whether the plaintiff was an immediate hazard or not when deciding to proceed with the left turn. Instead, the defendant wrongly assumed that he had the right of way due to the presence of an advance green signal. Instead of focusing on the oncoming traffic and any potential hazards created by those drivers, the defendant concentrated on ensuring there was no cross traffic or pedestrians in the crosswalk while he turned left. He looked left, then right, then left again before he looked ahead at oncoming traffic. By this time it was too late because the collision had already occurred. In my view, the defendant neglected to take the proper steps to ensure there was no oncoming traffic before he proceeded into the left turn. In this regard, I find the facts of this case are similar to those in Shirley where Mackenzie J. (as he then was) concluded that both drivers were at fault, the oncoming driver for running a yellow light and the left turning driver for proceeding into the turn when her view of the intersection and the oncoming traffic was partly blocked.

[30] For these reasons, I find that both the plaintiff and the defendant are at fault and their respective negligence both contributed to the accident. The degree of fault does not differ significantly. The defendant proceeded into a left turn without keeping a lookout for oncoming traffic due to his mistaken assumption that he had an advance green light. The plaintiff was equally at fault for increasing his speed and attempting to travel through the intersection before the light turned red and following an established amber. Accordingly, I find the plaintiff and the defendant each 50% responsible for the accident.

bc injury law, intersection collisions, Madam Justice Bruce, section 128 motor vehicle act, Section 174 Motor Vehicle Act, Ziani v. Thede