Road Maintenance Claims "Clearly Require Expert Evidence" Addressing Standard of Care

If a road maintenance company unreasonably fails to maintain a road for which they are responsible they can be held civilly liable for resulting harm.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, discussing the complex nature of  such claims finding that such cases clearly require expert evidence to succeed.
In last week’s case (Collins v. Rees) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 collision when she lost control of her vehicle colliding with the side of the Massey Tunnel and was then struck by another vehicle.  She sued the contracting company responsible for maintaining that stretch of roadway arguing they failed to take proper steps to prevent the build up of ice.
Mr. Justice Williams noted that the claim must fail as there was no evidence to prove icy conditions caused the loss of control but further that cases such as this cannot succeed without expert evidence addressing the standard of care.  The court provided the following comments:
 
[36]         With respect to the issue of standard of care, I can find nothing in the record which could be said to constitute evidence going to prove the applicable standard of care of the defendants. To find that on the evidence before this court would require guesswork and speculation. I am unable to infer that standard from the evidentiary record.
[37]         Inference is the exercise of reaching a logical conclusion by reasoning from proven facts. Here, the proven facts from which the inference could be drawn are not present.
[38]         Insofar as applying my own knowledge of every day matters, that would not be an appropriate way to deal with this issue. Decisions as to the proper steps, measures and procedures to sign and maintain a highway system in a large metropolitan community are undoubtedly complex things. I am sure that engineers have spent their entire lives working on those very issues. The same applies with respect to issues such as drainage and vapour barriers. It is not reasonable to expect that a trial judge, as a layperson, will draw the inferences to establish this element. It is clearly a matter that requires expert evidence.
[39]         Accordingly, I find the plaintiff has adduced no evidence with respect to the element of the applicable standard of care and, as well, the issue of the defendants’ failure to meet that standard of care and that, therefore, the defendants’ applications must succeed.

bc injury law, Collins v. Rees, Mr. Justice Williams, road maintenance liability, Standard of Care

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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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