RCMP Liable for Fatal Collision in Course of Pursuit of Suicidal Motorist

Update June 22, 2015The BC Court of Appeal ordered a new trial finding the trial courterred in law in imposing a new or novel duty of care on police in advance of a pursuit without having conducted a full Anns/Cooper inquiry”
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Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing liability for a fatal collision which occurred during a police pursuit.
In today’s case (Bergen v. Guliker) the Plaintiff vehicle was struck head on by the Defendant vehicle which was fleeig from police at the time of collision.  The court noted that “Prior to the Collision, it was known that Mr. Guliker was suicidal, had stated an intention to jump into traffic to kill himself, and was a flight risk. When the RCMP first approached Mr. Guliker, he was parked at a chicken farm on Bustin Road. On sighting the RCMP, Mr. Guliker fled north on Bustin Road at a high rate of speed.”.
The Court found that the RCMP were in part responsible for the tragic collision.  In reaching this conclusion Mr. Justice Savage provided the following reasons:
[249]     Once Mr. Guliker accelerated down Bustin Road, it was obvious to the RCMP officers that Mr. Guliker’s sighting of their vehicles precipitated his flight. A proper risk assessment at this point would have alerted the officers to the significant public safety risk of chasing a suicidal individual who is determined to evade apprehension down unfamiliar rural roads at high rates of speed.
[250]     Nevertheless, the officers commenced and continued a pursuit of Mr. Guliker up to the point of the Collision.
[251]     To summarize, in my opinion Constables Huff and Brand failed to conduct a proper risk assessment at two critical times: (1) before deciding to proceed down Bustin Road without a plan in place that recognised the likelihood of Mr. Guliker fleeing in his vehicle, and (2) after proceeding down Bustin Road toward Mr. Guliker’s location and seeing him accelerate away. A proper first risk assessment would have precipitated the development of a plan to address the likelihood of Mr. Guliker fleeing. A proper second risk assessment would have called off the chase and considered other options.
[252]     I find that Constables Huff and Brand did not act within the standard of a reasonable police officer, acting reasonably and within the statutory powers imposed upon them in the circumstances of this case. In the result, the RCMP officers breached their duty of care owed to the plaintiffs.
 

bc injury law, Bergen v. Guliker, Police Pursuit Cases

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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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