Tag: failing to keep a lookout

BC Court of Appeal – It Is Negligent To “Not See What’s There To Be Seen”

I never saw the other vehicle before the crash” is rarely a satisfactory answer in absolving a party from liability.  Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Court of Appeal discussing this principle finding that it is reversible legal error not to consider if a party is liable for failing to see something that is there to be seen.

In today’s case (Sharma v. Kandola) the Plaintiff was injured in a two vehicle collision.  At the time she was in the process of making a U‑turn from the south to the north side of the street in a school zone.  The Defendant, who was travelling behind her, attempted to pass her in the westbound lane.  The vehicles collided.  The Plaintiff never saw the Defendant prior to the crash.

At trial the Court found the Defendant fully liable for “travelling too close to Ms. Sharma’s car and driving too fast, he failed to keep a proper look out, and he was attempting to pass Ms. Sharma’s vehicle in the westbound lane, an activity prohibited in a school zone“.

The Defendant appealed.  The BC Court of Appeal found that the Defendant was largely to blame but the plaintiff also bore some liability for failing to see the Defendant prior to the crash.  In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:

Continue reading

Motorist With Right of Way Found 25% at fault for Speeding and Failing to Keep a Proper Lookout

The below decision was upheld in reasons for judgement released in February 2014 by the BC Court of Appeal
_________________________________
As previously discussed, having the right of way is not always enough to escape fault (or partial fault) for a collision.  If a dominant motorist fails to react reasonably in the face of an obvious hazard liability can follow despite having the right of way.  This was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry.
In this week’s case (Currie v. Taylor) the Defendant was travelling down highway 97 near Vernon, BC.  The Plaintiff, approaching from the Defendant’s right, left his stop sign attempting a left hand turn.

The Defendant had the right of way and the Plaintiff’s actions were found to be negligent.  The Defendant, however, was also found at fault for speeding and failing to react reasonably to the obvious hazard that the Plaintiff created.  In assessing the Defendant 25% at fault Mr. Justice Armstrong provided the following reasons:
[48]         The defendant Sharp’s evidence is confusing. He saw the Taxi moving away from the stop line but he did not take any evasive steps during the 10 seconds the Taxi was travelling across Highway 97. He looked into his rear view mirror but he had no time to avoid the accident. He confirmed that his vehicle did not decelerate significantly when he took his foot off the brake before impact; there was no reason that he could not have gone into the right lane before reaching the Intersection…
[128]     The defendant Sharp, travelling 33 km/h over the posted limit, would have reduced the time available to take evasive action or stop and would not have collided with the plaintiff in any event. It seems to me that the defendant Sharp, having seen the plaintiff start before he left the stop line and after, neglected to keep a proper lookout for the emergency that was developing in front of him…
[131]     Neither the defendant Sharp nor Mr. Tuckey had any difficulty in identifying the bright yellow Taxi as it was stopped on Meadowlark Road. The defendant Sharp’s discovery evidence was equivocal as to what he saw before impact. He first testified that he saw the Taxi leaving the stop line and followed it across his path, but then he indicated he had not seen the Taxi after it left the stop line. At that juncture he ought to have been aware the plaintiff might cross over into his lane…
[150]     It is clear that if the defendant Sharp’s speed had been as little as 110 km/h, the plaintiff would have cleared the Intersection without incident. Although speed, in itself, is not necessarily a breach of the standard of care I have concluded that the defendant Sharp’s speed was more than one third higher than the posted limit and his speed that interfered with his ability to take evasive steps. He would have had more time to react to the hazard and could have avoided the accident by steering and/or braking. In the circumstances he could otherwise have performed those manoeuvres which a reasonably careful and skilled driver might have taken. I have concluded that his lack of attention to the Taxi after it left the stop line, coupled with his excessive and unsafe speed, were a breach of his duty of care to the plaintiff…
[183]     In my view the plaintiff was obliged to yield the right-of-way and failed to do so, likely because he did not see the Van which was clearly visible. The defendant Sharp travelled at a speed more than one third above the limit and failed to take any timely measures to avoid the collision. The defendant Sharp also failed to keep a proper lookout and that, combined with his speed, deprived him of the opportunity to avoid the collision. In the end, when he realised that the Taxi was moving in front of him he looked to the right to attempt a lane change but was travelling too fast to be able to change lanes. I conclude that the plaintiff was more blameworthy. I apportion the liability for this collision 75% to the plaintiff and 25% to the defendants.

Why Having the Right of Way is Not Always Enough


I’ve previously written that having the right of way is not always enough to escape blame for a motor vehicle collision.  Reasons for judgement were released today further demonstrating this point.
In today’s case (Hmaied v. Wilkinson) the Defendant was driving up a windy road in Port Moody, BC.  At the same time the Plaintiff, then 15 years old, was jaywalking in front of the Defendant.  The Plaintiff was “jogging slowly as he crossed the road“.
The Defendant was speeding.  He saw the Plaintiff jaywalking but “continued to drive at an excessive rate of speed directly toward (the Plaintiff)“.  The Plaintiff crossed beyond the Defendant’s lane of travel.  Unfortunately he dropped his cell phone and “instinctively turned back into the (defendant’s) lane and bent over to pick it up without looking in the direction of oncoming traffic”  As he straightened up after picking up his phone he was struck by the Defendant’s vehicle.
Despite having the right of way, the Defendant was found 50% at fault for the crash.  In coming to this finding Madam Justice Dickson provided the following reasons:

[34] I conclude that the plaintiff and the defendant both failed to exercise due care in all of the circumstances and that both failures were proximate causes of the Accident.  In my view, the parties are equally blameworthy and liability should be apportioned on a 50% basis to each of them.

[35] The defendant had the right of way, but he did not take reasonable precautions in response to the obvious hazard presented by a young person jaywalking across his path of travel.  I accept that he could not specifically foresee the plaintiff would drop his cell phone and move back into the middle eastbound lane in order to retrieve it. I do not accept, however, that he was entitled to assume the plaintiff would obey the rules of the road or otherwise behave in a predictable manner as he jogged diagonally across Clarke Road.  On the contrary, the defendant knew that the youthful plaintiff was behaving unsafely by jaywalking in the face of oncoming traffic.  In these circumstances, other forms of unsafe behaviour were predictably unpredictable and the defendant should have slowed down and changed lanes immediately when he saw the plaintiff.  Had he done so, the Accident would not have happened:  Nelson (Guardian ad litem of), supra; Ashe, supra; Claydon, supra; Karran, supra; Beauchamp, supra.

[36] The plaintiff also failed to exercise due care for his own well-being.  He jaywalked in the face of oncoming traffic and, mid-course, turned back to retrieve his cell phone without checking to see how close the approaching vehicles had come.  In so doing, he exposed himself to the risk that he would be struck by an approaching vehicle.  That risk was realised and his negligent actions were also a proximate cause of the Accident.

If you have the right of way but know that someone is failing to yield you must take reasonable steps to avoid a potential collision otherwise you can bear some of the blame.

BC Court of Appeal Finds Cyclist 50% at Fault for "Cycling Between Lanes"


Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal addressing the issue of fault for a cyclist involved in an intersection crash.
In today’s case (MacLaren v. Kucharek) the Plaintiff cyclist was injured when he was travelling through an intersection in Surrey BC when he was struck by a left hand turning vehicle approaching from the opposite direction.  At  trial the driver of the vehicle was found 100% at fault.  The vehicle operator appealed and the BC High Court overturned the trial judgement and found the cyclist 50% at fault.
The roadway the cyclist was travelling on had one marked lane but as it approached the intersection it “widens…(and) although unmarked as two lanes, there is sufficient room for two vehicles to travel abreast within the one marked lane.”  Critical to the Court’s judgement was a finding that although unmarked, the roadway had “two de facto lanes” just prior to the intersection.
It was accepted that vehicles that drove in the right of these two defacto lanes were right turning vehicles. Vehicles that intended to drive straight through the intersection stayed in the left hand portion of the wide lane.  As the cyclist approached the intersection a vehicle in front of him in his direction fo travel stopped and left a “gap in the traffic lined up behind the intersection“.  The Plaintiff passed this traffic on the right and entered the intersection (basically travelling down the centre of these two defacto lanes).  At the same time the Defendant made a left hand turn into the intersection resulting in collision.  The Defendant testified that he never saw the cyclist prior to the crash.
The driver was found at fault for failing to see the cyclist.  In finding the cyclist 50% at fault the BC Court of Appeal provide the following reasons:
The question that arises, however, is whether Mr. MacLaren should have “taken the lane”; that is, ridden behind the other traffic in the lane, rather than do what he did which was to put himself beside vehicles in that lane and to pass them on the right…

…In my view it is not so much that Mr. MacLaren was passing on the right when he was struck by the appellant, but that he was riding between what were effectively two lanes of travel before entering the Laurel Drive intersection.  In my view, s. 183(2)(c) (which required him to ride as near as practicable to the right side of the highway), did not authorize him to ride between two lanes of travel.  For Mr. MacLaren to ride between two unmarked but commonly travelled lanes immediately prior to reaching the Laurel Drive intersection was dangerous because a northbound left-turning driver would have little opportunity to see him as he cycled alongside vehicles to his left.  In my view, given the configuration of the roadway and the pattern of traffic in this case, for Mr. MacLaren to cycle alongside vehicles to his left created a danger both to himself and to the appellant.

[29] While Mr. MacLaren did the right thing by moving out of the curb lane, he should have moved in behind the vehicles travelling toward the “through” lane, not beside them.  By cycling between lanes Mr. MacLaren did not show sufficient care for his own person to avoid a finding of contributory negligence.  Taking a lane was the only way, in my view, that a bicyclist could have satisfied the mandate of s. 183(2)(c) to safely travel as near as practicable to the right of the highway…

I am of the view that the trial judge erred in failing to conclude that Mr. MacLaren, in choosing to ride in between the two travel lanes and beside the stopped pick-up rather than in the lane of travel behind it, did not take reasonable care for his own safety.  His failure to take reasonable care for his own safety was one of the causes of the accident.  Mr. MacLaren was therefore contributorily negligent.

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.

“Work hard, be kind and enjoy the ride!”
Erik’s Philosophy

Disclaimer