Plaintiff Struck by Fleeing Shoplifter Found Faultless for Collision
Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing the issue of fault for a crash when a Plaintiff was struck by a fleeing shoplifter.
In last week’s case (Bhadlawala v. Baxter) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 collision. At the time he was 64 years old and was a long time employee at Zellers. He observed an individual shoplifting and followed him into the parking lot. The shoplifter entered a van. The Plaintiff stood behind the van, about one vehicle length away, and attempted to write down the licence plate. The vehicle then suddenly backed up and struck the Plaintiff causing injury.
ICBC argued the Plaintiff should be found 25% at fault for placing himself in harm’s way. Madam Justice Gray rejected this argument and found the motorist fully at fault. In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
 Regarding the 2008 accident, ICBC argued that Mr. Bhadlawala was negligent in placing himself behind the van in the parking lot, and that he thereby contributed to the accident. ICBC argued that Mr. Bhadlawala ought to have known that the van was going to back up, and should not have stood behind it. ICBC argued that Mr. Bhadlawala should be held 25% contributorily negligent for the 2008 accident, and that his damages award should be reduced accordingly…
 The defence argued that Mr. Bhadlawala should not have pursued the shoplifter. However, the accident was not the result of pursuing the shoplifter. It was the result of the van striking Mr. Bhadlawala in the parking lot.
 The shoplifter was in the van. The evidence did not establish whether the shoplifter was the driver or a passenger in the van. The driver of the van probably wanted to avoid anyone noting the van’s license number. It was reasonable for Mr. Bhadlawala to have anticipated that the van might have backed up.
 However, the risk of being caught shoplifting is far less significant than the risk of being caught striking a pedestrian with a vehicle.
 It was not reasonably foreseeable that the driver of the van would reverse so quickly that Mr. Bhadlawala could not move out of the way in time to avoid being struck. Mr. Bhadlawala was standing over a van length behind the van, which would have given him ample time to get out of the way if the van had moved at a reasonable speed…
 As a result, Mr. Robert is entirely responsible for the 2008 accident.
Another useful case addressing this issue can be found here where the BC Court of Appeal found ICBC’s arguments in a similar situation were ‘doomed to failure‘.