Tractor-Trailer Driver Not Negligent for Entering Left Lane To Make Wide Right Turn

Large commercial vehicles sometimes have to make wide turns.  In some circumstances it is necessary for such motorists to move out of the curb lane before executing such a turn.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, addressing a collision occurring during such a maneuver.
In last week’s case (Steward v. Dueck) the Plaintiff was travelling the in the ‘fast’ lane.  Ahead of her in the curb lane was “a very large commercial vehicle“.  The commercial vehicle started a right hand turn by first signalling, checking that traffic was a safe distance behind him, crossing into the fast lane and beginning his wide turn.  During this time the Plaintiff collided with the trailer unit.  The Plaintiff sued for damages but the claim was dismissed.  The Court found the commercial driver was not negligent   In dismissing the claim Madam Justice Dardi made the following findings:
[25]         Prior to initiating his turn, Mr. Dueck described that he first checked the traffic. He was satisfied that he could safely initiate his manoeuvre, as the traffic was a safe distance behind him. He then signaled a left turn and moved from the slow or curb lane into the fast lane. He blocked the lanes by crossing the dotted dividing line. He then turned his Unit into and through the left turn lane to make his turn. He says he never had his Unit entirely in the left turn lane but rather, he turned his Unit through the lane in “an arc”. He described his turning manoeuvre, which he says he executes routinely, as being designed to discourage other drivers from passing him on either side while he is executing his turn…
[35]         Ms. Stewart does not take issue with Mr. Dueck’s assertion that the turning manoeuvre he undertook was appropriate for executing a right-turn at this particular Intersection. Rather, Ms. Stewart’s essential contention is that Mr. Dueck should have slowed down or stopped before initiating his right turn so that he could have first ascertained Ms. Stewart’s position. Her counsel disputes that Mr. Dueck activated his four-way flashers.  In any case, if it is found that Mr. Dueck did activate his four-way flashers Ms. Stewart argues that this did not constitute sufficient warning of his manoeuvre…
[55]         In my view, the preponderance of the evidence supports a finding that Ms. Stewart failed to exercise due care in all of the circumstances. A reasonable driver in her position would have been put on notice that she should proceed with caution. Mr. Dueck’s 72-foot Unit with 14 flashing lights proceeding at 15 kph was clearly there to be seen. Contrary to the assertions of Ms. Stewart’s counsel, such a large vehicle “does not turn suddenly.” Ms. Stewart did not testify that she was watching the Unit and that Mr. Dueck failed to activate his four-way flashers or the right turn signal. She merely says that she did not observe his four-way flashers or the right turn signal. Had she been paying due care and attention to the roadway ahead of her, the operational flashing signals of his Unit – seven signal lights located at intervals down the length of each side of the Unit – would have been clearly visible to her. The four-way flashers and right turn signal would have been fully visible from the rear and passenger side of the Unit.
[56]         The Supreme Court of Canada in Swartz Bros. Limited v. Wills, [1935] S.C.R. 628 at 634, endorsed the notion that: [W]here there is nothing to obstruct the vision and there is a duty to look, it is negligence not to see what is clearly visible.” See also Millot Estate v. Reinhard, 2001 ABQB 1100 at para. 46. This principle has application to this case…
[65]         The only reasonable inference is that Ms. Stewart was not paying due care and attention as she was approaching the Intersection.
[66]         I find that Ms. Stewart bears the onus of proving negligence. In my view, she has failed to discharge her burden of proof. I am not persuaded on a balance of probabilities that the accident was attributable to any want of care on Mr. Dueck’s part. I find Ms. Stewart entirely at fault for the accident. Moreover, Ms. Stewart has failed to prove any negligence on Mr. Dueck’s part for the second impact she says occurred as Mr. Dueck backed up his Unit to clear the Intersection. I find that Mr. Dueck acted reasonably in the circumstances. In reaching my conclusions, I have considered the entire body of evidence and, in my view, it best harmonizes with the preponderance of the probabilities.

bc injury law, Madam Justice Dardi, Stewart v. Dueck, Wide Turn

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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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