Relying on another motorist waiving you through an intersection is no defense to an allegation of negligence if the intersection is in fact not clear. Motorists must keep their own proper and clear lookout and relying on representations of others that ‘all is clear’ does not displace this duty. This principle was demonstrated in reasons for judgement published today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry.
In today’s case (St Denis v. Turner) the Defendant was stopped attempting to turn left at an intersection. The first 2 of the 3 oncoming lanes of traffic had vehicles backed up at the intersection and these motorists apparently ‘waved on’ the Defendant. As he proceeded with his turn and entered the final oncoming lane the plaintiff drove into the intersection and a collision occurred. The Court found both motorists liable with the Defendant shouldering more of the blame. In finding that relying on ‘waving on’ motorists was no defence to negligence Mr. Justice Funt provided the following reasons:
Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Chilliwack Registry, finding a police officer fully at fault for an intersection collision with another motorist.
In today’s case (Burroughs v. Chiasson) the Plaintiff was an RCMP officer involved in a crash in 2013. At the time, while driving a fully marked RCMP vehicle, she “pursued a truck with an uninsured trailer by attempting to turn left, on a red light, onto Young Road from the westbound curb lane on First Avenue. While making this turn, she collided with a minivan driven by the defendant, Jennifer Chiasson. Ms. Chiasson was driving eastbound on First Avenue.”.
The RCMP officer sued the other motorist claiming damages from the collision. The claim was dismissed with the Court finding that the Plaintiff entered the intersection when it was dangerous to do so in circumstances with no particular urgency. In dismissing the claim and finding the officer fully at fault for the crash Mr. Justice Basran provided the following reasons:
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing fault for an intersection crash involving a left turning vehicle and a vehicle driving straight through the intersection on a yellow light.
In today’s case (Krist v. Bock) the Plaintiff entered an intersection on a green light intending to turn left. The Plaintiff committed to the intersection but oncoming traffic was too heavy so the Plaintiff had to wait. After the light turned yellow the plaintiff proceeded with his turn but was then struck by the Defendant’s vehicle.
The Plaintiff alleged the Defendant was to blame for entering the intersection on a yellow. Mr. Justice Bowden disagreed and dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim finding him fully at fault for the crash. In reaching this decision the Court provided the following reasons:
 The defendant was aware of the plaintiff’s vehicle in the left-hand turn lane when he faced the yellow light and continued into the intersection without reducing his speed because of his concern that his vehicle would skid into the intersection. The fact that the defendant had noticed the plaintiff’s vehicle in the left turn lane before he initiated a left turn and did not reduce the speed of his vehicle does not constitute negligence. The presence of the plaintiff’s vehicle in the left turn lane did not cast a duty on the defendant to take extra care and he was entitled to presume that the plaintiff would not initiate a turn until his vehicle was through the intersection. The defendant was entitled to assume that the plaintiff would comply with the rules of the road and not commence a left turn until it was safe to do so.
 I acknowledge that the defendant was warned by the police for entering the intersection in the face of a yellow light however I have accepted his evidence that because of the wet pavement, he could not have stopped safely and thus complied with s. 128 of the MVA.
 In my view, the plaintiff proceeded to turn left when the defendant’s vehicle was in the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard. The evidence does not indicate that the plaintiff took any care to determine if a left turn could be made safely. I do not accept the plaintiff’s evidence that he commenced his left turn when the traffic light was red. I accept the defendant’s evidence that the light had turned yellow when he entered the intersection and at that point in time the plaintiff had initiated a left turn.
 In his examination for discovery the plaintiff said that he did not see the defendant’s vehicle until it was 20 feet away. I do not accept his explanation that the defendant’s vehicle was in the curb lane and changed into the center lane just before the accident occurred. He did not see the defendant’s vehicle make such a lane change and just surmised that was what he had done. The plaintiff did not mention this suggested lane change by the defendant in his statement to ICBC on January 3, 2013 nor in his examination for discovery on January 29, 2016.
 In my view, the plaintiff should have seen the defendant’s vehicle as it was entering the intersection but failed to do so. I reject his explanation that the defendant’s vehicle had come from the curb lane into the center lane just before the accident occurred.
 I accept the defendant’s evidence that when the traffic light turned yellow in the rainy conditions he could not stop safely without sliding in the intersection. He gave his evidence in a straight-forward and honest manner. There is no contradictory evidence. Accordingly, the defendant met the standard of care provided in s. 128(1) of the MVA.
 In my view, when the defendant entered the intersection he was the dominant driver and the plaintiff was in the servient position. I find that when the defendant driver entered the intersection, he did not have a sufficient opportunity to avoid the collision with the plaintiff’s vehicle after the plaintiff had initiated a left turn disregarding his statutory duty to yield to the defendant whose vehicle posed an immediate hazard.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for chronic pain following a motor vehicle collision.
In today’s case (Swieczko v. Nehme) the Plaintiff was involved in an intersection collision in 2011. The Plaintiff committed to the intersection on a green light but could not turn due to oncoming traffic. The Plaintiff waited until the light turned a stale yellow and began the turn. The Defendant, who was in the oncoming curb lane, came through on what was likely a red light and the vehicles collided. The Court found the Defendant fully liable for the collision.
The Plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries which resulted in chronic symptoms. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 Madam Justice Koenigsberg provided the following reasons:
 Mr. Swieczko suffered significant soft tissue injuries as a result of the accident. The clear medical evidence from the plaintiff’s orthopedic surgeon, Dr. G.M. McKensie, is that Mr. Swieczko’s soft tissue injuries are now chronic and permanent, presenting as moderate to severe pain in the neck, mid-back and lower back with persistent flare-ups as a result of overtime work, attempts at physically interacting with his growing one-year-old daughter and attempts to reintegrate previously enjoyed recreational activities. His prognosis is poor. Dr. McKensie testified that while there are some positive prognostic indicators, such as the likelihood that his function will improve with an appropriate pain/activity program; these are outweighed by the negative indicators, such as length of time Mr. Swieczko has experienced pain and the fact that his body has become sensitized to it.
 Dr. Ashleigh Stelzer-Chilton, Mr. Swieczko’s general practitioner, testified that Mr. Swieczko will never return to his pre-accident baseline. She believes he can improve his function and in that sense she hopes for a decrease in his pain with some activities.
 Mr. Swieczko was 27 years old at the time of the Accident. He is now 31. He has been engaged in the video game industry for close to nine years. He began as a “quality assurance” tester. This is a sedentary job, essentially playing games to ferret out problems before the games are released to the public. It requires concentration and repetitive tasks. It was described as being a form of detective work. The work often requires overtime as projects reach launching time; that is, 10-to 16-hour days. This career is generally somewhat insecure, as most of the employment is on contract. Mr. Swieczko has been laid off and re-hired several times.
 Mr. Swieczko’s ambition has been to be a game designer and currently he has landed his dream job. Mr. Swieczko is obviously a talented, hard-working, ambitious young man. He appears to have an above average ability to get re-hired as needed at his places of employment and lately has been promoted. However, all of the medical evidence indicates that he will have difficulty maintaining and progressing in his career to the extent that it relies on individuals having the stamina to intermittently work long days. Mr. Swieczko has on occasion been unable to work the required overtime and when he has done so, he can only do it for a day or so without resorting to strong pain medication such as Tylenol 3s. Further, Mr. Swieczko has been at risk in the past of medicating himself with alcohol, although he appears at this point to have that risk under control.
 Mr. Swieczko and his partner, Ms. Philips, have a child who is just over one year old now. While providing both of them a great deal of joy, this has resulted in two complicating factors because each is suffering from chronic pain from the Accident. The first is that, given Mr. Swieczko’s demanding career, which requires that he must utilize (at this point) all of his stamina to maintain, he has become more limited in what time and activity he can devote to his daughter. However, the evidence is clear that Ms. Philips has been and still is unable to do several necessary tasks associated with housekeeping and child care – such as physically lifting and holding their child. Thus, up to now Mr. Swieczko has shouldered more of those tasks than he would have, which apparently limits the downtime his neck and back need to recover from strain. This in turn has required more pain medication and led to frustration.
 It must be recognized that this state of affairs is costing Mr. Swieczko psychologically. He is far less able to socialize and enjoy family get-togethers – or physical activity that he enjoyed before the Accident. Thus, Mr. Swieczko is struggling with frustration and emotional despondency from time to time as he contemplates the immediate future, wherein he may not be able to be an active participant in his daughter’s physical recreational life. It was clear from Mr. Swieczko’s evidence that he was taken aback by receiving his poor prognosis in relation to living relatively pain-free and being able to do what he did before. In particular, he had ambitions of participating in such physical activities as karate with his daughter as she matures. He is now very unlikely to be able to do this…
The most significant factor in this case making the assessment of general damages suggested by the plaintiff more appropriate than that suggested by the defendant is the severity and chronicity of pain, which combines with Mr. Swieczko’s increasing emotional struggle over the impairments to his family, marital and social relationships. Adding to this is Mr. Swieczko’s stoicism, which, in this case, has meant he has and continues to work longer and harder to achieve his career goals, but at a significant cost in pain and resort to strong medications.
 I assess his non-pecuniary damages at $90,000.
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating the potential value of traffic signal sequence evidence following an intersection collision.
In this week’s case (Kuma-Mintah v. Delange) the Plaintiff and Defendant were involved in an intersection collision. The Plaintiff was heading westbound through a T-intersection. At the same time the Defendant was attempting a left hand turn. Both motorists claimed to have a green light arguing the other was to blame. Evidence of the intersections traffic signal sequence ultimately proved important in resolving the dispute.
The Defendant initially gave evidence that she was stopped at the intersection for 30 seconds before the light turned green. However traffic signal sequence evidence demonstrated that the vehicle would have only had to wait 11.3 seconds before changing sequence. This ultimately undermined the reliability of the Defendant’s evidence. In highlighting the significance of this evidence Mr. Justice Walker provided the following reasons:  Ms. Delange claims to have been stopped facing south at the Intersection on a red traffic signal. She said that she waited to turn left to head eastbound on the Lougheed Highway before the signal facing her turned to green. Once the traffic signal facing her turned to green, she proceeded slowly into the Intersection. As she did, she heard her husband, who was sitting behind her in the passenger seat on the left side of the vehicle, yell out that Mr. Kuma-Mintah’s vehicle was not going to stop. The collision occurred.  There was a period of time while she was giving evidence during the trial when Ms. Delange sought to move away from her wait-time estimate of 30 seconds that she gave at her examination for discovery. Her discovery evidence was very clear on the point. She also suggested the possibility that other vehicles were present at or near the Intersection. The evidence from the traffic engineer concerning the traffic signal sequence for the Intersection, which was not expert evidence, became known to Mr. Kuma-Mintah’s counsel only a few days before the trial began and to defence counsel shortly before the start of the trial (no adjournment of the trial was sought by the defence). While I do not consider that Ms. Delange, in providing new evidence suggesting a different wait-time and the possibility of other vehicles at or near the Intersection, was attempting to provide dishonest or misleading testimony following the recent disclosure of the traffic engineer’s evidence, her attempt to explain away her very clear discovery evidence was indicative of her ongoing struggle to comprehend how the accident could have occurred. I accept that she was trying to provide an overall account that she thought was truthful; it was, however, an account that was premised on post hoc reasoning…  Ms. Delange’s vehicle was the only one present at or near the Intersection that could have triggered any of the embedded traffic sensors. And as I have pointed out, I find that other than Ms. Delange’s vehicle, there was no traffic on the Lougheed Highway or United Boulevard during the relevant time before the accident occurred that would have made any difference to the traffic signals affecting Mr. Kuma-Mintah. That means that if Ms. Delange was stopped at the Intersection as she claims, then she would have been waiting for only 11.3 seconds, and not 30 seconds, before she could proceed to make her left-hand turn. Her vehicle would have automatically triggered the various traffic signals controlling the Intersection to change in accordance with the sequence design….  I find that Ms. Delange proceeded into the Intersection on a red traffic signal and collided with the vehicle being driven by Mr. Kuma-Mintah, contrary to s. 129(1) of the Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318. Mr. Kuma-Mintah was entitled to proceed through the Intersection on a green traffic signal pursuant to s. 127(1). I accept his explanation that there was insufficient time for him to have taken evasive action.  My findings are made on a balance of probabilities. My determination of fault is premised on the clear objective evidence concerning the sequence design of the traffic signals and the evidence of the accident reconstruction expert contained in his report. My determination is only partly derived from my assessment of the credibility of the witnesses when they gave their testimony. I have determined that the description provided by Mr. Kuma-Mintah is in “harmony with the preponderance of probabilities”: Faryna v. Chorny,  2 D.L.R. 354 (B.C.C.A.); Gariepy v. Ritchie,  B.C.J. No. 2304 (S.C.); and Hou v. McMath, 2012 BCSC 257 at para. 27.
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:  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…  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…  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…  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…  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.
A reality at busy intersections is that drivers, after committing to an intersection on a green light, sometimes need to wait until the light turns red to complete their turn. If a crash occurs in these circumstances a driver can (depending on the specific facts of course) be found faultess for the collision. Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with such a scenario.
In this week’s case (Yanakami v. Whittey) the Plaintiff was attempting a left hand turn. She committed to the intersection. After her light turned red vehicles in two of the three oncoming lanes came to a stop. At this time she proceeded to complete her turn. The Defendant, who was travelling in the third oncoming lane, ran the red light and a collision occurred.
Mr. Justice Fitch found the Defendant fully at fault for the crash. In doing so the Court provided the following reasons:
Against the background of this discussion, I make the following factual findings:
1.the plaintiff began her left turn immediately after the light for east and westbound traffic changed to red;
2.two other vehicles traveling east had come to a stop at the intersection in the curb and centre-line lanes;
3.the plaintiff was cognizant of, and attentive to, the considerations one would expect to be in the mind of a reasonably prudent driver including the colour of the traffic light, the location and speed of oncoming traffic, the location of Mr. Whittey’s vehicle at various points in time, including when the light turned red, and the potential for there to be pedestrians walking to the south in her intended path of travel;
4.Mr. Whittey had ample time to stop before the intersection and do so in safety, just as two other eastbound vehicles had done, when the light changed to yellow;
5.the plaintiff concluded, and was entitled in fact and in law to conclude, that the defendant’s vehicle did not present a hazard, that he had plenty of time stop (as other vehicles had done) and that it was safe for her to proceed with her left turn;
6.the defendant was not being attentive to the factors a reasonably prudent driver would have been attentive to before the collision, including the presence of the plaintiff’s vehicle in the westbound left turn lane immediately in front of him or the fact that a car had already come to a stop ahead of him in the eastbound centre-line lane. This conclusion is supported by the defendant’s own admission that he was not looking at the left turn lane for westbound traffic as he approached the intersection because it was not important for him to do so;
7.Mr. Whittey entered the intersection after the light turned red;
8.the plaintiff could not possibly have taken evasive action at that point to avoid the collision.
Applying these facts to the applicable law, I am satisfied that this accident was caused solely by the negligent driving of the defendant, Mr. Whittey.
Motorists are entitled to commit to an intersection and wait until its safe to proceed prior to making a left hand turn. If the light turns red prior to a safe moment arriving it is appropriate for a motorist to wait that long prior to completing their turn. In such circumstances a turning motorist can be found fully faultless if a collision occurs which was demonstrated in reasons for judgement released last month by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry.
In last month’s case (Henry v. Bennett) the Defendant was driving NorthBound on King George intending to make a left hand turn on 68th Avenue. At the same time the Plaintiff was travelling Southbound on King George intending to drive through the intersection.
The Court found that the Defendant entered the intersection on a green light. She waited for a gap in traffic. The light eventually turned amber and then red. Southbound traffic visible to the Plaintiff stopped. She began her turn when the Plaintiff came through the intersection and the collision occurred. The Plaintiff sued for damages but the claim was dismissed with the Court finding him fully at fault for entering the intersection on a red light when it was unsafe to do so. In finding the Defendant faultless Madam Justice Ballance provided the following reasons:
Ms. Bennett was in a position remarkably similar to that of the plaintiff in Kokkinis. Although she did not see Mr. Henry prior to the collision, Kokkinis indicates that it does not necessarily follow that she was in any way negligent. Having said that, I wish to clarify that I do not read Kokkinis as standing for the proposition that left-turning drivers are entitled to proceed blindly on the assumption that oncoming drivers will obey the rules of the road, without regard to their concurrent obligation to act reasonably as the circumstances dictate. In my view, Ms. Bennett was entitled to proceed on the assumption that oncoming traffic, including Mr. Henry, would act in accordance with the law and come to a stop on the late amber, absent any reasonable indication to the contrary and provided she comported herself with reasonable care. Here, there was no contrary indication from Ms. Bennett’s standpoint. Indeed, she could see that the SUV across from her had complied with the rules and she was aware as well that the flow of straight through traffic had ceased some seconds earlier. She had no reasonable indication that oncoming traffic in the form of Mr. Henry would proceed through the intersection in clear violation of the rules of the road. Moreover, I find that in all the circumstances she conducted herself prudently and with reasonable care in negotiating her left turn. In contrast, Mr. Henry knew or reasonably ought to have known that in all likelihood Ms. Bennett would have carried through with her left turn at the final stage of the amber light, and most assuredly when the signal turned red. He created an extremely unsafe situation in failing to come to a stop.
 I endorse the case authorities that cast doubt over the legitimacy of portraying a driver in Mr. Henry’s shoes as having the presumptive right-of-way or otherwise qualifying as the dominant driver for the purposes of assessing liability using the Walker paradigm: see, for example, Snow v. Toth,  B.C.J. No. 563 (S.C.); Shahidi v. Oppersma,  B.C.J. No. 2017 (S.C.); Ziani v. Thede, 2011 BCSC 895. The dominant/servient driver analysis in Walker is predicated on the footing that the dominant driver has proceeded lawfully and, it seems to me, is of utility in that circumstance only. I, therefore, question whether that framework is of any assistance to a driver like Mr. Henry, who has acted in breach of his statutory duty. In any case, it cannot be said that Ms. Bennett attempted to execute her turn in complete disregard of her statutory duty to yield, which is an integral component of the Walker analysis. Indeed, it is my view that Ms. Bennett can be validly characterized as the dominant driver in the circumstances. There is no cogent evidence to remotely suggest that she could have avoided Mr. Henry by the exercise of reasonable care. To formulate it in the terms of s. 174, Ms. Bennett posed an immediate hazard to Mr. Henry, which he should have appreciated, and it is he who ought to have yielded the right-of-way.
Based on the foregoing, I am satisfied that the accident was caused solely by the negligent driving of Mr. Henry. As he is entirely at fault for the accident, his claim is dismissed.
As the BC Court of Appeal recently confirmed, there is a range of possible splits of fault following many intersection collisions. Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this frequent type of collision.
In last week’s case (Ziani v. Thede) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2006 accident in Vancouver, BC. He was travelling west on Kingsway. As he approached the intersection of Boundary Road the light turned yellow. He increased his speed to run the light. At the same time the Defendant was approaching from the opposite direction on Kingsway making a left hand turn onto Boundary. The Defendant testified that he had an advance green arrow although this evidence was not accepted with the Court finding that the Defendant was faced with the same yellow light that the Plaintiff had.
Madam Justice Bruce found that both motorists were equally to blame and in doing so provided the following reasons for judgement:
On the facts of this case, the plaintiff entered the intersection on a yellow light and thus cannot be said to have the right of way. I am also satisfied that the defendant did not have an advance green light in his favour when he was attempting to turn left. Given the timing of the light sequences, and the evidence of the two independent witnesses, it would have been impossible for the defendant to have faced a green light when he was attempting to turn left. Had the defendant faced an advance green turn signal, the witnesses would not have seen a red light for oncoming east/west traffic at the time of the collision. Next in the sequence would have been a green light for through traffic on Kingsway. Moreover, Ms. Gjerding clearly testified that the defendant’s blue van was stopped in the left turn lane waiting for the through traffic to clear. This evidence is inconsistent with the defendant having the right of way with an advance green light.
Thus on the facts of this case, the competing duties described in ss. 174 and 128 of the Motor Vehicle Act are squarely in issue. The burden of proof described in Dawes is not applicable where neither of the drivers had a presumptive right of way. Instead, the Court must examine the conduct of each driver to determine if they complied with their respective duties under ss. 174 and 128 of the Motor Vehicle Act…
In my view, it is apparent that the plaintiff decided to increase his speed and “run” the yellow light in contravention of s. 128 of the Motor Vehicle Act in order to avoid the red light. It was only coincidental with the light turning yellow that he saw the defendant’s vehicle. It was not the presence of the defendant’s vehicle that led to the plaintiff’s decision to increase his speed in order to avoid a collision…
In this case, however, I find the defendant did not assess whether the plaintiff was an immediate hazard or not when deciding to proceed with the left turn. Instead, the defendant wrongly assumed that he had the right of way due to the presence of an advance green signal. Instead of focusing on the oncoming traffic and any potential hazards created by those drivers, the defendant concentrated on ensuring there was no cross traffic or pedestrians in the crosswalk while he turned left. He looked left, then right, then left again before he looked ahead at oncoming traffic. By this time it was too late because the collision had already occurred. In my view, the defendant neglected to take the proper steps to ensure there was no oncoming traffic before he proceeded into the left turn. In this regard, I find the facts of this case are similar to those in Shirley where Mackenzie J. (as he then was) concluded that both drivers were at fault, the oncoming driver for running a yellow light and the left turning driver for proceeding into the turn when her view of the intersection and the oncoming traffic was partly blocked.
For these reasons, I find that both the plaintiff and the defendant are at fault and their respective negligence both contributed to the accident. The degree of fault does not differ significantly. The defendant proceeded into a left turn without keeping a lookout for oncoming traffic due to his mistaken assumption that he had an advance green light. The plaintiff was equally at fault for increasing his speed and attempting to travel through the intersection before the light turned red and following an established amber. Accordingly, I find the plaintiff and the defendant each 50% responsible for the accident.
As previously discussed, where motorists have different versions of events following a collision the evidence of independent witnesses can be crucial in addressing the issue of fault. Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.
In this week’s case (Chang v. Alcuaz) the Plaintiff was involved in a two vehicle collision in 2008. As she was travelling Eastbound on 33rd Avenue her vehicle was struck as she crossed Main Street. The Defendant was travelling Southbound on Main Street at the time the vehicles collided.
The impact was severe with the plaintiff testifying that as she approached the intersection “she recalled that the colour of the traffic light was green” and that “she has no other recollection of the accident. Her next memory is of waking up two days later in the hospital.”
The Defendant disputed this version and gave evidence that he had the green light. Mr. Justice McEwan ultimately preferred the Defendant’s evidence and dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim. In reaching this conclusion the Court placed significant weight on the evidence of two independent witnesses who saw the collision. Mr. Justice McEwan provided the following reasons for judgement: The evidence in this case is contradictory and unreliable in many of its details. It is often difficult, in cases of this kind, to put much reliance on estimates of time and distance given by witnesses in connection with a surprising and traumatic event…
Liability comes down to two questions:
(1) who had the benefit of the light, and
(2) was the operator of the vehicle with the benefit of the light, nonetheless responsible to some degree, in the circumstances.
Respecting the first question, there is reason to doubt the plaintiff’s assertion that she had the benefit of a green light as she now asserts. She was unconscious following the accident and her original statement is at odds with what she presently says. It would be difficult to accept her version of the event without corroboration.
The assistance offered by the witness, Ms. Currimbhoy, is highly debatable. She, alone, among the witnesses, suggests that the event happened in daylight. On a common sense basis, as I have indicated, she could not be right about her proximity to the plaintiff at the time of the collision. There is also the difficulty that none of the other witnesses saw any other vehicle proximate to the collision. There is a further difficulty posed by Mr. Humphrey’s flatly stated observation that he saw the woman who identified herself as a co-worker pull up after the collision. It is not conclusively established that that was the same person, but it is telling that neither Mr. Jantzen, nor Mr. Humphrey, who observed the entire incident, noted any other vehicle near the scene.
The defendant, Mr. Jantzen and Mr. Humphrey all say firmly that the defendant had the benefit of the green light when he entered the intersection. Mr. Jantzen’s impression that the defendant may have been “timing” the light is borne out in the defendant’s description of what occurred, in that he says he slowed and then accelerated when he saw the light turn green.
The evidence from the City of Vancouver respecting the timing of the lights that day at that intersection is also useful. If the light was turning, an eastbound driver had 3.5 seconds of an amber light before the change. For 1.5 seconds traffic in all directions is governed by a red light. This means that by the time the light turns to green, eastbound traffic, at any reasonable speed, has had a warning and ample time to stop.
The scenario posted by the plaintiff that the light was green or green turning amber as she hit the intersection would imply a red light north and southbound that continued for five seconds after the defendant entered the intersection. This would preclude any impression of the defendant “timing” the light because he would have entered fully on red. That is not in accordance with the observation of Mr. Jantzen or of his passenger, Mr. Humphrey. Both were credible and balanced witnesses who were not caught up in the event themselves except to witness it. Mr. Jantzen, in particular, was paying specific attention to the light because he had been waiting for it to change. His view was unobstructed.
I am satisfied, on the basis of a consideration of all the evidence, that at the time the collision occurred the defendant had the benefit of the green light and that the plaintiff should not have been in the intersection when the collision occurred.
This case is also worth reviewing for the Court’s discussion of fault for motorists who “time a green light“. The Plaintiff argued that if she did run a red light the Defendant was partially to blame because he timed his green light. Mr. Justice McEwan dismissed this argument but in doing so provided a useful overview of the law at paragraphs 36-46 of the reasons for judgement.
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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