Tag: Section 129 Motor Vehicle Act

Traffic Signal Sequence Evidence Resolves Liability Dispute

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:
[19]         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.
[20]         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…
[24]          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….
[29]         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.
[30]         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, [1952] 2 D.L.R. 354 (B.C.C.A.); Gariepy v. Ritchie, [1993] B.C.J. No. 2304 (S.C.); and Hou v. McMath, 2012 BCSC 257 at para. 27.

No Liability For Motorist Struck While Stopped on Painted Stop Line

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, considering sections 129 and 186 of the Motor Vehicle Act and liability for a crash based on the positioning of a stopped vehicle at an intersection.
In this week’s case (Eissfeldt (Guardian ad litem of) v. Eissfeldt) the Defendant was stopped “on..the painted stop line” in a desginated left hand turn lane at an intersection.

An intersection collision occurred between other motorists propelling one of the vehicles into the stopped Defendant’s truck.  The Plaintiff, a passenger in one of the other vehicles, sued the drivers of all three vehicles arguing all were to blame.  The Plaintiff argued that the Defendant truck driver was negligent in improperly stopping his vehicle “on rather than behind the painted stop line” arguing that this was in breach of section 186 of the Motor Vehicle Act.
Mr. Justice McEwan disagreed and dismissed the claim against the motorist.  In doing so the Court found that section 186 was limited only to stop sign controlled intersections (as opposed to traffic light controlled intersections) but in any event the Defendant’s actions were not negligent.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[18] …. Section 186 applies to intersections controlled by stop signs, not traffic control signals. The duty outlined in s. 129 is to stop before the marked crosswalk. There is no question that Mr. Brown did so, as can be seen in the photographs. There is no suggestion in the Act, and none of the case law supports the notion that where stop lines are painted in the left turn lane ahead of a crosswalk, there is a duty to stopbefore rather than on them, as long as the vehicle does not enter the marked crosswalk. In this regard Mr. Brown’s acknowledgment that he intended to stop before the line may mark a slight deviation from the standard he meant to achieve, but it is not evidence that obliges the court to impose a higher standard on Mr. Brown than that set out in the section. It is not at all clear that the stop lines are anything more than guides to ensure that vehicles do not encroach the crosswalk and the intersection, which are the duties imposed by the section.

[19] As the cases show, statutory duties have been superimposed on the common law duty of care and may create a modified standard in the circumstances to which they pertain. The context remains important, however. The concern of a motor vehicle operator at an intersection controlled by a traffic signal is for pedestrians and traffic lawfully crossing or turning in the intersection. The assessment of risk begins with the premise that one may rely on other drivers to obey the rules of the road, subject to the qualifications set out in the cases. (See paras. 8 and 9 herein).

[20] The occurrence of a random event precipitated by the failure of others to obey the rules of the road (I do not know which of the other defendants this may be or to what degree they may share liability), is not the sort of harm that could be described as foreseeable by Mr. Brown. In the circumstances it is obvious that he was in no position to react as the collision transpired.

[21] There is simply no basis, in my view, for a finding that Mr. Brown failed in his statutory duty, which was to avoid the crosswalk and the intersection at the red light. That duty did not extend to anticipating the possibility that a vehicle might suddenly lose control as a result of a collision and veer into his path, obliging him to guess where to place his vehicle in order to avoid such a contingency.

[22] Giving full consideration to the fact that the court must be very careful not to permit litigating in slices and the risk of embarrassing consequences as a result of ruling on an incomplete view of the case, I consider this to be an example of a circumstance where it is appropriate to apply Rule 9-7(15). Mr. Brown was not in breach of the relevant statutory duty found in s. 129. Section 186 of the Motor Vehicle Act does not apply. Whether or not the impact with his vehicle contributed in any respect to the plaintiff’s claims, Mr. Brown’s vehicle was not where it was as a result of any negligence on his part.

Driver 25% at Fault for Striking Jaywalking Pedestrian

As previously discussed, having the right of way is not determinative of fault for a collision.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, demonstrating this in the context of a pedestrian crash.
In last week’s case (Murdoch v. Biggers) the Plaintiff was crossing Blanshard Street in a marked cross-walk.  She did so against a red light.  There were 3 oncoming through lanes of travel.  The vehicles in the first two lanes stopped for the jaywalking Plaintiff.  The vehicle in the third lane did not stop in time and collided with the Plaintiff resulting in a broken right leg.

The Court found that while the motorist had the right of way they shouldered some of the blame for failing to keep a proper lookout.  In assessing the Plaintiff 75% at fault and the Defendant 25% at fault Madam Justice Power provided the following reasons:
[33] In this case, I do not believe that the defendant exercised the appropriate standard of care to avoid breaching that duty. The drivers in vehicles in the two lanes to her right were able to observe and stop for the plaintiff, and a driver behind her (Ms. Larson) was able to see Ms. Murdoch. Mr. Lukinuk was able to observe that something was happening in his rear-view mirror. In the circumstances, I find that the defendant failed to keep a proper lookout by failing to observe Ms. Murdoch’s entry into the crosswalk and by failing to observe that vehicles in the two lanes to her right had stopped for Ms. Murdoch. I find that if the defendant had in fact been keeping a sufficient look out, she would have been able to stop for Ms. Murdoch and avoid the collision…
[36] In all of the circumstances, I conclude that the 75% of the fault for the accident should be borne by the plaintiff and 25% by the defendant.

Driver Faultless for Intersection Crash Despite Turning Left on Red

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:

[62] 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.

[63] 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.

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

Personal Injury Lawyer

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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