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:
Today the BC Court of Appeal overturned a jury verdict finding a left hand turning motorist completely at fault for a motor vehicle collision and awarding the injured Plaintiff over $1.2 Million in compensation for serious injuries.
The car accident happend in 2000 in Coquitlam BC. The Plaintiff was travelling southbound in the right hand lane on North Road. There was stopped traffic in the two southbound lanes to his left. The Defendant was travelling North on North Road and attempted to make a left hand turn into the Lougheed Mall parking lot. At this time he collided with the Plaintiff’s vehicle.
The jury found the left-hand driver 100% at fault for this collision.
The jury went on to award damages as follows:
Non-pecuniary damages (pain and suffering) $300,000
Past Loss of Income: $275,000
Loss of Future Earning Capacity: $650,000
Cost of Future Care: $15,000
At trial the defence lawyer asked the judge to instruct the jury on the provisions of s. 158 of the Motor Vehicle Act. This section prohibits a driver from overtaking and passing a vehicle on the right when the movement cannot be made safely. The trial judge chose not to instruct the jury about this section.
The BC Court of Appeal held that it was an error in law not to do so, specifically that:
In my opinion it was, in the circumstances of this case, a serious non- direction, amounting to a misdirection, to fail to draw the provisions of s. 158 to the attention of the jury. Section 158(2)(a) prohibits a driver from overtaking and passing another vehicle on the right when the movement cannot be made in safety. The jury could not have had a proper understanding of the parties’ relative obligations, and the standard of care each was to observe, without an instruction on the meaning and application of that section.
I do not think this Court could properly decide how, if at all, fault should be apportioned. That question requires an appreciation of all the evidence, as well as a consideration of the credibility of the two drivers and the other witnesses.
In my opinion, there must be a new trial on the issue of contributory negligence.
The Court ordered that the jury’s judgement be set aside and that the proceeding be generally returned to the BC Supreme Court for a new trial.
The result is, over 8 years after a very serious accident with serious injuries, If the Plaintiff is not able to come to a settlement of his ICBC Claim he will have to be involved in a second trial to address the allegations that he was partially at fault for his injuries and to prove the value of his losses all over again. Section 158 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act is a rarely cited section but one of significant importance. Simply because you are in a through lane and are not governed by a stop sign or stop light does not mean you always have the right of way. If vehicles in your direction of travel have stopped and it is not clear why they have stopped it may not be safe to proceed. In this case it appears that vehicles may have stopped to permit the Defendant to turn left and the Plaintiff continued on. This case illustrates the potential use Section 158 of the Motor Vehicle Act may have for left hand turning motorists involved in a collision.
Do you have questions about this case or fault for an accident involving a left-turning vehicle that you wish to discuss with an ICBC Claims Lawyer? Click here to arrange a free consultation with ICBC Claims lawyer Erik Magraken.
If you would like further information or require assistance, please get in touch.
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.
This blog is authored by personal injury and ICBC Claims lawyer Erik Magraken. Use of the site and sending or receiving information through it does not establish a solicitor/client relationship. The views expressed and the content provided on this blog is for nonprofit educational purposes. It is not, and is not intended to be, legal advice on any specific set of facts. The use of this website does not create a solicitor-client (attorney-client) relationship. If you require legal advice, you should contact a lawyer directly.