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Tag: Mr. Justice Powers

Field Used as Parking Lot Deemed "Highway" In ICBC Hit and Run Claim

One of the restrictions in bringing a lawsuit against ICBC for damages caused by an unidentified motorist is the incident needs to occur on a “highway“.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vernon Registry, addressing the definition of highway in the context of a hit and run claim.
In this week’s case (Nadeau v. Okanagan Urban Youth and Cultural Association) the Plaintiff was struck by an unidentified motorist while standing in a field that was used as a parking area for an outdoor concert.  The Plaintiff sued ICBC for damages.  The Court ultimately decided that given the use of the private property at the time it was a highway and the unidentified motorist claim could proceed.  In so finding Mr. Justice Powers provided the following reasons:
[82]         The Motor Vehicle Act, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318 defines “highway” as follows:
“highway” includes
(a) every highway within the meaning of the Transportation Act,
(b) every road, street, lane or right of way designed or intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles, and
(c) every private place or passageway to which the public, for the purpose of the parking or servicing of vehicles, has access or is invited,
but does not include an industrial road;
[83]         In the present case, the issue is whether the place where the accident happened falls within the definition of “highway” in s. 1(c) of that definition. The defendant, ICBC, denies that the place where the accident occurred was a “highway” on the basis that it is a private place to which the public did not have access, or was not invited for the purposes of parking.
[114]     On June 30, when Mr. Nadeau attended the concert with his friend, Mr. Jong, they parked in an area that Mr. Jong described as an area where people with passes parked. However, there is no evidence about what passes were needed, even when this area was controlled by security. There were passes for security, crew, media, artists, guests, all access and production. It is not even clear that everybody that entered this area with a vehicle required a pass. They used their pass to get into this parking area. On July 1, when they returned, Mr. Jong’s memory is that they passed through the secondary gate and that he had to show a pass to security people at this gate. He recalls there were a couple of rows of parked vehicles in this area. He says that later in the evening, before the accident, when he came and went, that there was no security at this gate, he was not stopped, and was not required to provide any pass. Mr. Nadeau’s evidence as well is that he does not recall any security at this gate later that evening on July 1, when they attended. Mr. McMann’s evidence was that initially, in the secondary area, people needed a pass to park in this area, but then things got slack. Mr. Tosh Mugambi could only be sure that the VIP area was being strictly controlled. There were a number of different kinds of passes. The concert goers had ticket stubs, but there were a large number of different kinds of passes, artist passes, VIP passes, guest passes, and the guest could be anybody, including volunteers, or anybody who happened to receive a pass from either one of the organizers or even the owners of the property who had a number of passes.
[115]     The area has been described as a field and physically it was a field. It is private property. However, it was being used as a parking lot when the accident occurred. At some point during the concert, there was some control over who had access to this area. However, that was not consistent throughout the concert, and I am satisfied that by the evening of July 1, this secondary area was no longer being controlled or restricted by the organizers or by security. The public had access to this area for the purposes of parking. The primary parking for the concert goers was in the general parking area, but there was no longer any control or restrictions on parking in the secondary area. Therefore, I am satisfied that for several hours before and, certainly at the time of the accident, this was a place in which the public had access for the purposes of parking. The public at this time included concert goers who might proceed through this secondary gate and clearly included anyone who was there in order to carry on the business of putting on or assisting in some way with the concert, or their friends or supporters. The people that had access at that time was a broad enough group to fall within the definition of the public in s. 1(c) of the Motor Vehicle Act.

Non-Pecuniary Damages Discussed for Physical Injuries Complicated by Pre-Existing Psychological Issues

It is a well worn principle that you take your victim as you find them when assessing damages for personal injuries in BC.  It is equally true that a defendant is not responsible for compensating an injured party beyond the injuries that they have caused.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Kamloops Registry, dealing with these principles in the face of chronic pre-existing psychological injuries.
In this week’s case (Carson v. Henyecz) the Plaintiff was injured after being struck by a vehicle being driven by her mother.  The Plaintiff sustained injuries that “essentially recovered…within a year of the accident”.  The Plaintiff, however, had a pre-existing “borderline personality disorder” and this caused for a prolonged recovery and with other complicating factors.  The Court grappled with this pre-existing injury, its effect on recovery and further on the fact that the Plaintiff’s symptoms at the point of trial would be largely similar even absent the collision.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $90,000 Mr. Justice Powers provided the following reasons:
[111]     I find that Ms. Carson had essentially recovered from her physical injuries within a year of the accident. I accept that she continued to have some pain for at least another year and still occasionally suffers pain from the injury. However, from a physical point of view she has made an excellent recovery. I am not satisfied that the shoulder complaints relate to the accident or were caused by the accident. In November of 2008, when she began to notice shoulder pain, the doctor’s evidence indicates that she had a full range of motion and was quite strong.
[112]     I do find that her pre-existing psychological or borderline personality disorder was a factor in the impact this accident had on her. These injuries and the circumstances of the accident had a greater impact on Ms. Carson than they would on somebody without her pre-existing psychological problems.
[113]     I also find that the necessity for narcotic medication to deal with the pain immediately after the accident and for at least a short time after also complicated and delayed Ms. Carson’s efforts to free herself from her prior addiction and abuse of pain medication. I find that the psychological impact of this accident also complicated her efforts to free herself from the pain medication and made it more difficult for her to do so.
[114]     However, the accident is not the cause of Ms. Carson’s ongoing problems. I am satisfied her ongoing problems, both psychological and physical, are as a result of her prior psychological problems. Given her complicated psychological history, I find that the accident has become the focus of and not the cause of her complaints. It is difficult to be precise about when the accident was no longer a significant contributing cause to her complaints. However, I am satisfied that within two to three years of the accident, and certainly by the time of the trial, the accident was no longer a significant contributing cause. Similar to the case of Wilson and the cases cited in that decision that I have referred to in paras. 105 and 106 of my reasons, Ms. Carson’s pre-existing condition was so dominant in her life and, based on the evidence I have heard, would have continued to dominate her life whether this accident occurred or not. Essentially she appears to be back to her pre-accident condition and it cannot be said that the accident is the cause of her present condition.
[115]     In considering all of the above, I find that the appropriate damage award for non-pecuniary damages is $90,000.00.

Can You Successfully Sue For Injuries in a "No Impact" Collision?

Further to my previous post on this topic, the law is clear that a Plaintiff can successfully sue a Defendant for physical injuries even if the Defendant never makes contact with a Plaintiff.  Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, demonstrating this.
In today’s case (Bern v. Jung) the Plaintiff was injured in 2 separate incidents.  In the first incident the Plaintiff was riding a bike down a ramp into a parkade.  At the same time the Defendant was leaving the parkade and drove his vehicle ‘in the wrong direction in the entrance lane towards the ramp area‘.  The Plaintiff “immediately applied his brakes, losing control of his bicycle and falling over the handlebars.  He fell out into the roadway.   Fortunately (the Defendant) was able to avoid striking (the Plaintiff)”.
The Defendant argued that the Plaintiff should bear some responsibility.  Mr. Justice Powers disagreed and found that the Defendant was 100% responsible for the incident despite not striking the Plaintiff.  In reaching this decision Mr. Justice Powers noted as follows:

[13]        I find that the defendant has not proven that Mr. Bern was contributorily negligent.  Mr. Bern was entitled to assume that other people would be acting properly.  The evidence does not establish that his speed was excessive to the extent that it was negligent.  I find that the sole cause of the accident was Mr. Jung’s decision to take a shortcut and travel against the direction in which traffic was supposed to flow and could reasonably be expected to flow.

[14]        Mr. Bern lost control of his bicycle and fell because of the sudden and unexpected presence of Mr. Jung’s vehicle travelling in the wrong direction.  Mr. Bern was forced to act quickly and to apply his brakes forcefully.  He essentially acted in the agony of the collision and should not be found contributorily negligent because he did so.

[15]        I find that Mr. Jung is 100% liable for the accident on June 21, 2007.

The Plaintiff suffered various injuries including pain in his clavicle, one or two fractured ribs, a fractured right triquetrum (a small bone on the outside portion of the back of the hand) and broken teeth which required dental work and root canals.
Some of the injuries were aggravated in a subsequent rear end accident.  The Court went on to award the Plaintiff $50,000 for his non-pecuniary damages (money for pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life) as a result of both accidents.  In reaching this figure Mr. Justice Powers summarized the effect of the Plaintiff’s injuries as follows:
[36] I find that Mr. Bern indeed was a physically active and motivated individual before the first accident.  He made an honest effort to attempt to return to his prior physical active state, but is continuing to have some difficulty because of the soft tissue injuries, leaving him with lingering symptoms.  The second accident aggravated those injuries and probably extended the time in which they will affect Mr. Bern.  The second accident aggravated the problems he had with his shoulder, neck and back.  The aggravation of his pain and problems he is suffering in attempting to exercise also added to his depression and anxiety.  I accept that on occasion he is anxious about driving and that this results from the second motor vehicle accident, but that it does not prevent him from driving…
[40] I do find, however, that on the balance of probabilities, in other words that it is more likely than not, that those symptoms will be reduced over time…
[44] I find that general damages should be $50,000.00.  I apportion $15,000.00 of that amount to the second accident.  I am satisfied that the second accident aggravated the existing injuries and contributed to some additional injuries.  However, the significant injuries and pain and suffering arise from the first accident.