Supreme Court of Canada Confirms Heightened Standard of Care When Driving Near Children
Last week the Supreme Court of Canada released reasons for judgement discussing the standard of care for motorists driving near children.
In last week’s case (Anapolis County District School Board v. Marshall) the Plaintiff, who was 4 years old at the time, suffered “catastrophic” injuries when struck by a school bus. His case was dismissed at trial with a Jury finding the motorist was not negligent. The Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ordered a new trial finding the Judge’s charge to the Jury was confusing. The School Board appealed further and in a split decision the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the trial result finding the Judge’s charge to the Jury was appropriate.
The following passage was included in the Judge’s charge to the Jury addressing the standard of care when driving near children:
In a school or playground area or in a built up residential district, a motorist should drive more slowly and carefully and keep a lookout for the possibility of children running out into the street. Here you must decide whether the circumstances were such as to put the defendant motorist on notice that he was approaching an area where children were likely to be, and therefore should exercise greater care in the operation of his motor vehicle.
In dissenting reasons for Judgement, Justice Cromwell found that the Jury charge was in fact confusing and that the heightened standard of care when driving near children needed to be stressed even more by the trial judge. Justice Cromwell provided the following reasons:
The critical instruction was that the jury had to consider whether the circumstances were such as to put the defendant motorist on notice that he was approaching an area where children were likely to be and should therefore exercise greater care. This instruction was given almost in passing and in the midst of confusing instructions about the duty of pedestrians and self-contradictory instructions about the burden of proof. The plaintiff was entitled to have the key liability issue in the case put to the jury in clear terms. Looking at the charge as a whole, this, in my respectful view, did not occur. The misdirection may have given rise to an injustice. I would therefore dismiss the appeal.