Tag: bus accident

Bus Driver Liable for Collision After Failing to Stop for Running Passanger


Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing fault for a collision between a bus and a pedestrian attempting to catch it before it departed.
In last week’s case (Heyman v. South Cost British Columbia Transportation Authority) the Plaintiff was attempting to catch a bus which was stopped at a bus stop.   He ran towards it, approaching from its front, waving his hand in the air trying to get the motorists attention.  The bus driver closed the doors and put the vehicle into motion just as the Plaintiff approached colliding with his waving hand.   The impact caused him to spin around and fall to the ground. His ankle was run over by the rear of the bus and he also suffered a broken shoulder.
The bus driver argued there was a strict policy “that if a pedestrian is even one foot away from the bus stop when the doors close, the bus leaves“.  Mr. Justice Skolrood rejected this finding there was no such written policy noting that the written policy stated that “to arrive safely is more important than to arrive on time. The obvious safety of passengers, employees, travelers and pedestrians on the streets and highways must be given precedence over every other consideration.”
Mr. Justice Skolrood went on to note that in any event the bus driver was careless in departing when he did given the proximity of the pedestrian.  In finding both parties negligent in the incident the Court provided the following reasons:
[66]         The analysis then turns to whether Mr. Cooper failed to meet the standard of care of what would be expected of a reasonably prudent bus driver in the circumstances. This questions turns on whether it was reasonable for Mr. Cooper, in compliance with what he understood company policy to be, to simply close the doors of the bus and accelerate away from the bus stop notwithstanding Mr. Heyman’s approach.
[67]         In my view, reliance on this alleged policy is no answer to the claim that Mr. Cooper breached the standard of care. I say alleged policy because it is not set out anywhere in writing, notwithstanding that West Vancouver Transit has in place an extensive policy manual setting out detailed operational practices and policies. That said, I have no reason to question Mr. Cooper’s evidence that drivers are instructed to leave once there is no one else waiting at a bus stop.
[68]         However, Mr. Cooper’s conduct is not to be measured against a general policy, but rather must be considered in light of the circumstances that presented at the time. As noted by Madam Justice Rowles in Wang, the question is whether there was a real risk of harm that could reasonably be avoided.
[69]         In my view, Mr. Heyman approaching the bus in an awkward run waving his arms in the air with a view to getting the driver’s attention and hopefully having the bus stop so he could board, presented a real risk of harm. I note in particular the fact, as pointed out by counsel for the defendants, that the road on which the bus was situated was quite narrow, in fact not much wider than the bus itself. That put the bus in close proximity to pedestrians on the adjacent sidewalk and heightened the need for vigilance on Mr. Cooper’s part. Again, that is particularly so given the manner in which Mr. Heyman was approaching…
[84]         In the circumstances, I find that Mr. Heyman was 60% responsible for the accident and Mr. Cooper 40%.

BC Personal Injury Claims Round Up

On Friday two more cases were released by the BC Supreme Court dealing with non-pecuniary damages which  I summarize below to add to this Pain and Suffering database.
The first case (Macki v. Gruber) dealt with a bus accident.   The Plaintiff’s vehicle was struck by a Greyhound bus in Duncan, BC.  Liability was contested but the Greyhound bus driver was found 100% at fault for the accident.  Paragraphs 1-60 of the case deal with the issue of fault and are worth reviewing for Mr. Justice Metzger’s discussion of credibility.  In finding the Defendant at fault the Court found that he was “careless” and that he “lied” and his evidence was rejected in all areas that it was in “conflict with the testimony of any other witness“.
The Plaintiff suffered various injuries, the most serious of which neck pain, headaches and upper back pain.  She was diagnosed with a chronic pain syndrome.  Mr. Justice Metzger assessed her non-pecuniary damages at $75,000 and in doing summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries and their effect on her life as follows:

[144] I find the chronic pain has made Ms. Mackie reclusive and morose. She has gone from a “bubbly, fun-loving, outgoing, social, interesting” person, to someone who is  anti-social, with bouts of depression and sadness. From the evidence of the plaintiff and Ms. Garnett, I find that the plaintiff defines herself as a very hardworking woman, but that the chronic pain prevents her exhibiting her previous commitment to work.

[145] This loss of enjoyment of life and identity is given considerable weight.

[146] I am satisfied the plaintiff is resilient and stoic by nature, and I do not doubt the extent of her pain and suffering. She has endured a regime of injections in order to retain some of her employment capacity. Plaintiffs are not to receive a lesser damage award because of their stoicism.

[147] I am satisfied that the plaintiff’s injuries and ongoing limitations are more like those cited in the plaintiff’s authorities and therefore I award her $75,000 in non-pecuniary damages.

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In the second case released on Friday (Dhillon v. Ashton) the Plaintiff was involved in 2 separate rear-end collisions.  Both claims were heard at the same time and fault was admitted leaving the court to deal with the sole issue of damages.

Madam Justice Ross found that the Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries in each of the 2 accidents.  She awarded non-pecuniary damages in total of $25,000 for both collisions.

In assessing an award of $15,000 for non-pecuniary damages for the first accident the Court summarized the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:

[60]         I find that Mr. Dhillon suffered soft tissue injury to his neck, right shoulder and low back in the First MVA. He suffered from headaches arising from this injury, but these resolved in a relatively short period of time. The injury to the right shoulder had essentially resolved by mid-May 2005. I find, consistent with Dr. Sandhu’s report that Mr. Dhillon was unable to work as a result of his injuries from the time of the First MVA to mid-May 2005 and then continued to suffer partial disability at work until July 2005. By July 2005 he was able to return to work without limitation. I find that his injuries from the First MVA were essentially resolved by October 2005, except for intermittent pain, consistent with Dr. Sandhu’s report. From October 2005 until the time of the First Workplace Accident, Mr. Dhillon required the use of pain medication for low back pain that was the consequence of both his prior condition and lingering consequences of the First MVA.

[61]         In the result, I find that Mr. Dhillon suffered mild to moderate soft tissue injury from the First MVA with the symptoms most significant in the first three months following the injury; with some ongoing problems for the next five months and intermittent pain thereafter. I find the appropriate amount for non-pecuniary damages for the First MVA to be $15,000.00.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages of $10,000 for the second accident Madam Justice Ross summarized the injuries it caused as follows:

[64]         I find that Mr. Dhillon suffered soft tissue injuries in the Second MVA that resulted in an exacerbation of his injuries to his neck, shoulder, and low back. He had returned to work following the Second Workplace Accident before the Second MVA, but was not able to work after this accident. He required physiotherapy, chiropractic treatment and pain medication for both the continuing injuries from the Workplace Accidents, an apparent recurrence or continuation of the right side back problem first noted in 2000, and the Second MVA. Mr. Dhillon was able to return to work part-time in November 2006 and full-time in January 2007. He requires some accommodation from his employer in terms of his duties. He continues to experience pain and requires medication to control his pain. I find that the Second MVA plays some role, albeit a minimal one, in Mr. Dhillon’s continuing symptoms, the other more significant contributors being the original complaint of low back pain, and the two Workplace Accidents.

[65]         In the circumstances, I find that $10,000.00 is an appropriate award for non-pecuniary loss for the Second MVA

British Columbia Bus Accidents and the Law

Reasons for judgement were released today dismissing the claim of a Plaintiff against the Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority for injuries sustained while on a bus in White Rock in 2005.
At some point after boarding the bus the Plaintiff stood up, “She held the floor-to-roof stanchion adjacent to the courtesy seat with her right hand.  She rotated clockwise so that her back was to the collapsible seat.  As she did so, she changed her grip in order to hold the stanchion with her left hand.  (the Plaintiff) let go of the stanchion she had been holding with her left hand as she proceeded to sit down in the collapsible seat and before she was seated.  (the Plaintiff) testified to her recollection that the bus accelerated from the bus stop causing her to lose her balance and to descend with some force.  The sacral-lumbar portion of her back struck the plastic armrest affixed to the left side of the collapsible seat.  A photograph of the injury taken later in the day indicates that the point of contact was directly on the sacral-lumbar area or the coccyx, and not to the left or right of the spine.”
The court dismissed the claim finding that “On the evidence that has been adduced, I conclude and find as a fact that the sole cause of the accident was (the Plaintiff’s) omission to take precautions to ensure her own safety on a moving bus.  She omitted to hold the stanchion that was readily available to her as she sat down.  I am not persuaded on a balance of probabilities that the bus was operated in any manner which could be classified as negligent.”
While this is by no means an exciting claim, Mr. Justice Pitfield did a great job in summarizing some of the authorities that deal with the duty of care owed by bus drivers to their passengers.  He recited the following well known principles when dealing with injured occupants on a bus:
Although the carrier of passengers is not an insurer, yet if an accident occurs and the passenger is injured, there is a heavy burden on the defendant carrier to establish that he had used all due, proper and reasonable care and skill to avoid or prevent injury to the passenger.  The care required is of a very high degree
…once an accident has occurred, the defendant must meet the heavy burden of establishing that he used all proper and reasonable care and skill to avoid or prevent injury to the passenger.  The standard of care imposed is the conduct expected of a reasonably prudent bus driver in the circumstances.  The court must consider the experience of an average bus driver, as well as anything that the particular driver knew or should have known about the passenger.  The standard of care required is higher when the driver knew or ought to have known that the passenger was handicapped or elderly.
 

Contact

If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.

ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

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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