Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal addressing the legal duties of both motorists and pedestrians while in a parking lot.
In today’s case (Russell v. Parks) the Plaintiff pedestrian was walking in a parking lot and was “about 6 feet into a a marked parking stall” when the Defendant backed his vehicle into the same stall and struck the Plaintiff. At trial the the Court found the pedestrian was 2/3 at fault for the incident. In overturning this to a 25/75 split in the pedestrians favour the BC Court of Appeal provided the following reasons addressing the parties duties:
 In my respectful opinion, the trial judge erred in law by applying s. 179(2), rather than ss. 180 and 181, to the circumstances of this case. Madam Justice Rowles’ analysis in Loewen v. Bernardi, and the wording of s. 179, when viewed as a whole, describe a code of conduct for vehicles and pedestrians who are approaching or entering a crosswalk. Where, as in this case, there are no crosswalks, ss. 180 and 181 are more appropriate. Section 180 imposes a duty on the pedestrian to yield the right of way to a vehicle when crossing a highway at a point not in a crosswalk. Under the Motor Vehicle Act, a parking lot falls within the definition of “highway”. Mr. Russell was crossing through a parking lot and it is clear that he was not using a crosswalk, therefore s. 180 applies. Section 181 imposes a corresponding duty on a driver “to exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian on a highway.” The standard of “due care” will obviously be higher in a parking lot than, for example, on a freeway, because one can expect pedestrians to be using that space. This approach is consistent with Bohati v. Jewell (1996) 84 B.C.A.C. 161, another “parking lot” case, where this court relied on what are now ss. 180 and 181 to apportion liability. Sections 180 and 181, rather than s. 179(2), have also been relied upon in lower court decisions involving parking lots: see Gray v. Ellis, 2006 BCSC 1808, and Davidson v. Donnelly,  B.C.J. No. 800 (S.C.).
 Even if Mr. Russell did leave a place of safety, the trial judge erred in his interpretation of s. 179(2) by considering only part of it. This provision has two components: a pedestrian must leave a place of safetyand this must be done so suddenly that it is “impracticable for the driver to yield the right of way.” The trial judge’s findings clearly indicate it was not impracticable for Mr. Parks to yield the right of way. He found that Mr. Parks could have stopped and avoided the accident had he been keeping a proper lookout (para. 34). In my view, s. 179(2) contemplates a situation where the pedestrian steps onto a path designated for pedestrians (such as a crosswalk) but in doing so steps immediately into the path of a moving vehicle that could not practicably yield the right of way in time. According to the trial judge’s findings, this does not describe the situation in which Mr. Russell and Mr. Parks found themselves.
 Mr. Russell argues that if he was not in violation of the statutory obligation pursuant to s. 179(2), he is not contributorily liable. I would not disturb the trial judge’s finding that he breached his common law (and statutory) duty to exercise due care and that this contributed to his injuries. The trial judge found that Mr. Russell was looking down as he walked into the parking stall, and as a result, failed to take reasonable care for his own safety. There is no basis on which to interfere with this conclusion.
 The next question is whether the apportionment of liability was grossly disproportionate to what this court would have ordered (see Moses, supra, para. 33). Each assessment will turn on the facts of the case. In this instance, Mr. Russell was looking down as he stepped over the barrier, and continued to look down as he took a few steps into the parking stall. Mr. Parks was aware that there were pedestrians in the area, entered the lot from a direction that required him to swing wide to enter a parking stall, changed his mind at the last minute in terms of which stall he would take, shoulder checked numerous times, and ended up driving forward when he was looking backward, striking Mr. Russell. Clearly both were at fault. However, finding that Mr. Russell was two-thirds responsible for the accident, in my respectful view, is grossly disproportionate to his fault. The trial judge was clearly influenced by the finding that Mr. Russell had breached his statutory duty under s. 179(2) of the Motor Vehicle Act by leaving a “place of safety”. As I have explained above, this finding was in error. Although Mr. Russell was looking down as he walked, he did not step off a curb or shoulder into moving traffic (which is what s. 179(2) is designed to prevent) and his fault should not be assessed as if he did.
 In Loewen v. Bernardi, this court reduced a finding of liability against the pedestrian plaintiff from 25% to 10% on the basis that the plaintiff’s contribution was minor. In that case, the plaintiff was half-way through a marked crosswalk when he was struck by a vehicle. I would not characterize Mr. Russell’s degree of fault as “minor”. On the other hand, it was not the main cause of the accident. The main cause was the fact that Mr. Parks drove forward while he was looking backward. I would allow the appeal on this ground and apportion liability on the basis of 75% against Mr. Parks and 25% against Mr. Russell.
Tag: Russell v. Parks
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Court of Appeal addressing the legal duties of both motorists and pedestrians while in a parking lot.
Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Cranbrook Registry, highlighting the Court’s discretion with respect to costs consequences following a trial in which a pre-trial formal settlement offer was made.
In this week’s case (Russell v. Parks) the Plaintiff was injured when struck by the Defendant’s vehicle while walking in a parking lot. Liability was at issue and ultimately the Plaintiff was found 2/3 responsible for the incident. After factoring this split in the Plaintiff’s assessed damages came to $28,305. Prior to trial ICBC paid more than this amount in Part 7 benefits which are deductible from the damage assessment pursuant to section 83 of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.
Despite proving partial liability against the Defendant and further proving damages, the Plaintiff’s claim was ultimately dismissed due to the above statutory deduction with Mr. Justice Abrioux providing the following reasons:
 In my view, this reasoning applies to this case, where the application of section 83(5) of the Act results in there being an award of $0 to the plaintiff. Accordingly, the action is dismissed and this should be reflected in the order.
Prior to trial ICBC made a formal settlement offer for $25,000 of ‘new money’. The Court needed to consider what costs consequences ought to flow in these circumstances. In awarding the Plaintiff 75% of pre-offer costs and having each party bear their own post offer costs the Court provided the following reasons:
 The dismissal of the action does not necessarily mean the plaintiff is disentitled to any costs: see McElroy v. Embleton, at para. 10.
 The first question is, putting aside for the moment the issue of Part 7 benefits paid, how should costs be apportioned from the time of the commencement of the action until April 13, 2012? At trial, I found the defendant to be one-third liable for the plaintiff’s loss. ..
 Having considered these authorities, and subject to my findings below regarding the Part 7 benefits, I find the plaintiff is entitled to 75% of his costs up to the date of the settlement offer of April 13, 2012. This reflects the fact that although the amount of time spent on determining liability at the trial was not “minimal”, more time was spent regarding the assessment of damages. This was shown in the medical evidence led, the reports which were obtained and the like. It would be unjust not to exercise my discretion to depart from the default rule referred to in paragraph 26 above in these circumstances.
 The next issue is whether the payment of the Part 7 benefits should affect the award of costs…
 This is not an appropriate case, in my view, to conclude as is submitted by the defendant that the plaintiff should not have proceeded to trial. It was not readily foreseeable to either party what the result was going to be with respect to liability or the quantum of damages. In so far as liability is concerned, I noted at para. 31 of my reasons for judgment that cases dealing with competing duties of pedestrians and operators of motor vehicles are highly fact specific.
 Taking all of these factors into account, I conclude that for the time period up to the defendant’s settlement offer of April 13, 2012, the plaintiff shall be awarded 75% of his costs and disbursements…
 What is the effect of the settlement offer made by the defendant for $25,000 of “New Money” as defined in counsel’s correspondence dated April 13, 2012? The New Money was in addition to the Part 7 benefits already received by the plaintiff. No objection was taken by the plaintiff to the form of the defendant’s offer to settle…
 Upon considering the factors in R. 9-1(6), I do not accept the defendant’s submission that double costs are appropriate. There is no reason for the plaintiff to be subject to a punitive measure. He was not unreasonable in rejecting the settlement offer. The issues at trial made the apportionment of liability quite uncertain. There was also a considerable range in the amount of damages which could have been awarded. The plaintiff’s finances would be greatly impacted if an order for double costs was made against him. In addition, the end result was effectively a nil judgment.
 Taking into account the legal principles to which I have referred and the particular circumstances which exist in this case, I conclude each party should bear their respective costs after the date of the defendant’s offer to settle. The plaintiff has already suffered some financial consequences for proceeding to trial in that I have decided he shall not receive 100% of his costs until the defendant’s offer to settle, but rather 75% of those costs.
As regular readers of this blog know, I try to avoid ‘round up‘ posts and do my best to provide individual case summaries for BC Supreme Court injury judgements. Sometimes, however, the volume of decisions coupled with time constraints makes this difficult. After wrapping up holidays in the lovely City of Kelowna this is one of those times so here is a soft tissue injury round up of recent BC injury caselaw.
In the first case (Olynyk v. Turner) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2008 rear-end collision. Fault was admitted. He was 43 at the time and suffered a variety of soft tissue injuries to his neck and back. His symptoms lingered to the time of trial although the Court found that the Plaintiff unreasonably refused to follow his physicians advise with respect to treatment. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $40,000 (then reduced by 30% to reflect the Plaintiff’s ‘failure to mitigate’) Mr. Justice Barrow provided the following reasons:
I find that Mr. Olynyk suffered a soft tissue injury to his neck and low back. I would describe the former as mild and the later as moderate. There is no necessary correlation between the amount of medication consumed, the frequency of visits to the doctor, or the nature of the attempts to mitigate the effects of one’s injuries and the severity of those injuries and their consequences. There may be many explanations for such a lack of congruity: a person may be particularly stoic or may have an aversion to taking medication for example. On the one hand, in the absence of such an explanation, when there is a significant disconnect between these two things, that can be a reason for treating self reports of pain and limitation with caution…
Given that it is now three years post accident, I am satisfied that Mr. Olynyk’s pain is likely permanent, although as Mr. Olynyk told Dr. Laidlow in the fall of 2011, his symptoms improved in the years since the accident, inasmuch as his level of pain declined as did the frequency of more significant episodes. Leaving aside the issue of his pre-existing back problems, and in view of the authorities referred to above, I consider that an award of non-pecuniary damages of $40,000 is appropriate. In reaching this conclusion, I have taken account of the dislocation that the plaintiff’s loss of employment has caused him. That loss is greater than the mere loss of income that it occasioned and for which separate compensation is in order. The plaintiff had to move to a different community to take a job that he was physically able to do. That is a matter of some consequence.
The next issue is the effect of the plaintiff’s pre-existing back problems. According to Dr. Laidlow because of the plaintiff’s spondylolisthesis, and given the heavy nature of his work, he likely would have experienced back problems similar to those he now experiences in 10 years even if he had not been involved in an accident.
As noted above, such future risks or contingencies are taken into account through a combination of their likely effect and the relative likelihood of them coming to pass (Athey at para. 27). I find that there was a 60 percent likelihood that Mr. Olynyk would experience the same symptoms he now experiences in 10 years in any event. It is not appropriate to reduce the award for general damages by 60 percent to account for that likelihood because the pre-existing condition would not have given rise to symptoms and limitations for 10 years. Mr. Olynyk is now 47 years old. I think it reasonable to reduce the award for general damages to account for his pre-existing condition by 30 percent.
The plaintiff is entitled to $28,000 in general damages ($40,000 less 30 percent). That amount must be further reduced to account for Mr. Olynyk’s failure to mitigate. The net award of non-pecuniary damages is therefore $22,400.
In the second case released this week (Scoffield v. Jentsch) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision on Vancouver Island. Although the Defendant admitted fault there was “a serious dispute between the plaintiff and the defendant as to the severity of the force of impact“.
Mr. Justice Halfyard noted several ‘concerns about the Plaintiff’s credibility‘ and went on to find that the impact was quite minor finding as follows:
I find that, after initially coming to a full stop, the defendant’s vehicle was moving very slowly when it made contact with the rear bumper of the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff’s car was not pushed forward. The damage caused by the collision was minor. The force of the impact was low. The defendant backed his car up after the collision, and the bits of plastic picked up by the plaintiff some distance behind her car, fell away from his car as he was backing up. I do not accept the plaintiff’s estimate that the closest pieces of plastic on the roadway were eight feet behind the bumper of her car.
Despite this finding and the noted credibility concerns, the Court found that the Plaintiff did suffer soft tissue injuries to her neck and upper back and awarded non-pecuniary damages of $30,000. In doing so Mr. Justice Halfyard provided the following reasons:
The defendant admits that the plaintiff sustained injury to the soft tissues of her neck, upper back and shoulders as a result of the collision of April 9, 2009. I made that finding of fact. But the plaintiff alleges that the degree of severity of the injury was moderate, whereas the defence argues that it was only mild, or mild to moderate in degree…
I find that, from April 16, 2009 until August 9, 2009, the pain from the injury prevented the plaintiff from working. After that, she was able to commence a gradual return to working full-time, which took a further two months until October 10, 2009. For the first four months after the accident, the pain from the injury prevented the plaintiff from engaging in her former recreational and athletic activities. She gradually resumed her former activities after that time. I find that, by the spring of 2010, the plaintiff had substantially returned to the level of recreational and athletic activities that she had done before the accident. After that time, any impairment of the plaintiff’s physical capacity to work or to do other activities was not caused by the injury she sustained in the accident on April 9, 2009…
The plaintiff must be fairly compensated for the amount of pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life that she has incurred by reason of the injury caused by the defendant’s negligence. In light of the findings of fact that I have outlined above, I have decided that the plaintiff should be awarded $30,000.00 as damages for non-pecuniary loss.
(UPDATE March 19, 2014 – the BC Court of Appeal overturned the liability split below to 75/25 in the Plaintiff’s favour)
In this week’s third case, (Russell v. Parks) the pedestrian Plaintiff was injured in a parking lot collision with a vehicle. The Court found that both parties were to blame for the impact but the Plaintiff shouldered more of the blame being found 66.3% at fault.
The Plaintiff suffered a fracture to the fifth metacarpal of his right foot and a chronic soft tissue injury to his knee. The latter injury merged with pre-existing difficulties to result in on-going symptoms. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $45,000 (before the reduction to account for liability) Mr. Justice Abrioux provided the following reasons:
I make the following findings of fact based on my consideration of the evidence both lay and expert as a whole:
(a) the plaintiff’s “original position” immediately prior to the Accident included the following:
·being significantly overweight and deconditioned;
·having a hypertension condition which had existed for many years;
·asymptomatic degenerative osteoarthritis to both knees, more significant to the right than the left; and
·symptomatic left foot and ankle difficulties.
(b) prior to the Accident, the plaintiff’s weight and deconditioning, together with the left foot and ankle difficulties caused him to live a rather sedentary lifestyle. Although he was able to work from time to time and participate in certain leisure activities, these were lessening as he grew older.
(c) the Accident did not cause the degenerative osteoarthritis in the right knee to become symptomatic. It did, however, cause a soft-tissue injury which continued to affect the plaintiff to some extent at the time of trial.
(d) the plaintiff’s ongoing difficulties are multifactoral. They include:
·his ongoing weight and conditioning problems. Although Mr. Russell’s pre-Accident weight and lack of conditioning would likely have affected his work and enjoyment of the amenities of life even if the Accident had not occurred, the injuries which he did sustain exacerbated that pre-existing condition;
·the plaintiff’s pre-existing but quiescent cardiac condition would have materialized the way it did even if the Accident had not occurred. This condition would have affected his long term day-to-day functioning including his ability to earn an income;
·notwithstanding this, the injuries sustained in the Accident, particularly the right knee, continue to affect his ongoing reduced functioning. This will continue indefinitely, to some degree, although some weight loss and an exercise rehabilitation program will likely assist him;
·an exercise and weight loss program would have been of benefit to the plaintiff even if the Accident had not occurred.,,
From the mid range amount of approximately $60,000 I must take into account the plaintiff’s original position and the measurable risk the pre-Accident condition would have affected the plaintiff’s life had the Accident not occurred. Accordingly, I award non pecuniary damages in the amount of $45,000.
In the final case (Hill v. Swayne) the 35 year old Plaintiff was involved in a 2009 collision. Fault was admitted by the Defendant. The Plaintiff sustained soft tissue injuries to his neck and back. The Court noted some reliability issues with the Plaintiff’s evidence and found his collision related injuries were largely resolved by the time of trial. In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $20,000 Mr. Justice Armstrong provided the following reasons:
Mr. Hill suffered a neck strain and lumbar strain and received 13 physiotherapy treatments ending February 2, 2010. He was absent from work from December 14, 2009 to January 4, 2010..
I accept that an injury of the type suffered by Mr. Hill was particularly troublesome in light of the heavy work in his role as a journeyman/foreman roofer. A back injury to a person in his circumstances, even if not disabling in itself, would require extra care and watchfulness on the job to ensure that the injury is not exacerbated. In considering the criteria in Stapely, it is significant that Mr. Hill, who was a heavy lifting labourer, injured his back and that the injury has lingering effects. The injuries have minimally impacted his lifestyle, and he has dealt stoically with his employment.
The severity of his pain was modest and the extent to which the duration of his discomfort was related to the accident is uncertain. However, I accept that there is some connection between the collision and his ongoing complaints.
I have considered various cases cited by counsel and additionally referred to the Reichennek case. Although comparisons are of some assistance, I am to focus on the factors set out by the Court of Appeal and the specific circumstances of the plaintiff in this particular case. In the final analysis, I would award the plaintiff non-pecuniary damages of $20,000.