Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering a motorist to pay almost $35,000 in damages after striking another motorist in the face.
In today’s case (Henderson v. McGregor) the parties were both operating motor vehicle moving in the same direction of travel. The Plaintiff was concerned that the Defendant was not paying adequate attention. The vehicles stopped close to each other and the Plaintiff exited his vehicle and approached the Defendant. The Defendant “struck him without warning, grabbing and scratching his face causing lacerations and bruising and drew blood.”.
The Court found the Defendant liable for the torts of assault and battery and ordered damages just shy of $35,ooo to be paid including $2,000 in aggravated damages. Mr. Justice Walker provided the following findings regarding liability:
Reasons for judgement were released earlier this week demonstrating liability after a motorist intimidated a cyclist who subsequently crashed.
In this week’s case (Davies v. Elston) the Plaintiff was an experienced cyclist. As he a passed parked truck whose mirror extended into the bike lane the Plaintiff’s son who was riding with him commented about the truck. The truck’s owner heard this, jumped in his vehicle and drove after the cyclists to confront them. Words were exchanged during which time the truck came close enough that the Plaintiff placed his hand on the passenger side window of the vehicle. As the truck drove away the Plaintiff lost control of his bicycle and fractured his pelvis.
The Defendant argued the Plaintiff was solely at fault for the incident. Madam Justice Griffin disagreed and found the defendant fully responsible. In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following reasons:
 As for whether Mr. Elston’s conduct was negligent, I find that the defendant fell below the standard of care of a reasonable and prudent driver, in driving alongside the two cyclists and yelling at them, while so close to the bike lane that it made it intimidating, threatening and unsafe for the cyclists; and then in addition in pulling away quickly, without warning, with Mr. Davies so close by and with his hand on the truck.
 It is obvious as a matter of common sense that such driving conduct was without reasonable care for the safety of the cyclists and was negligent.
 No matter how aggravating a cyclist’s behaviour might be, and I find there was nothing aggravating about the Davies’ conduct, a driver of a motor vehicle can never be justified in deliberately using a motor vehicle to confront a cyclist who is riding a bike. Confrontation creates a serious risk of harm to the cyclist which is way out of proportion to anything the cyclist might have done. A driver of a motor vehicle is not entitled to impose a penalty of death or serious bodily harm on a cyclist just because the cyclist was rude or broke a traffic rule.
 It has to be remembered that motor vehicles have four wheels, automatic brakes, seatbelts, and the driver is nicely encased in a heavy steel cage and that a person on a bicycle is not in a situation which is the least bit comparable, even if going the same speed as a vehicle. A cyclist cannot stop on a dime, is vulnerable to losing balance, and can be seriously injured or killed if he or she makes contact with a motor vehicle or falls at a high speed.
 Mr. Elston and Jim Davies knew this at the time that Mr. Elston was confronting Jim Davies. This is what made the situation so unnerving for Jim Davies and this was entirely foreseeable to Mr. Elston who wished to intimidate him.
 I conclude that but for Mr. Elston’s aggressive and negligent conduct, Jim Davies would not have fallen from his bike. Mr. Elston’s negligence therefore caused the accident and resultant injuries.
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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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