Left Turning Vehicle Not Liable For Accident

Left Turning Vehicle Not Liable For Accident

In THOMSON V. HUNT, 2010 BCSC 1858 (“THOMSON”), released December 24, 2010, the Court had to consider liability stemming from a collision in which the Defendant was found to have been speeding down a hill with limited visibility when he struck the Plaintiff, who was attempting to turn left up the hill.

We previously posted a blog entry which dealt with a case where the Defendant was found to be 100% liable after performing an illegal u-turn directly in front of the Plaintiff, who was driving safely and could not have anticipated the Defendant’s illegal manoeuvre (see: HOUGH V. WYATT,2010 BCSC 1375). In THOMSON, however, the Court found that the Plaintiff was merely turning left into a cul-de-sac across the street in order to turn around off the main road, and was not actually in the process of performing an illegal u-turn when the collision occurred.

The Court in this case stressed the extent to which liability in motor vehicle collisions is contingent on the mutual obligations imposed on all drivers, grounding its finding of liability on the following statutory provisions of the MOTOR VEHICLE ACT, R.S.B.C. 1996, c. 318 (“MVA”) at paragraph 25:

144(1)  A person must not drive a motor vehicle on a highway

(a)        without due care and attention,

(b)        without reasonable consideration for other persons using the highway, or

(c)        at a speed that is excessive relative to the road, traffic, visibility or weather conditions.

169      A person must not move a vehicle that is stopped, standing or parked unless the movement can be made with reasonable safety and he or she first gives the appropriate signal under section 171 or 172.

176(2)  The driver of a vehicle about to enter or cross a highway [defined under s. 1 as every road, street, lane or right of way designed or intended for or used by the general public for the passage of vehicles] from an alley, lane, driveway, building or private road must yield the right of way to traffic approaching on the highway so closely that it constitutes an immediate hazard.

[Emphasis in original].

The Court in THOMSON found that the Defendant was travelling significantly faster than the 30 km/h speed limit (which, interestingly, was described as requiring a level of caution like that required in a school zone) while travelling down a steep hill with limited visibility. As a result, the Court found that the Defendant was driving “at a speed that is excessive relative to the road”, and that the Plaintiff’s ill-fated left turn was made with reasonable safety. Section 176(2) of theMVA was therefore found not to be applicable, as the negligent rate of speed of the Defendant’s vehicle and the slope of the hill resulted in a situation where no “immediate hazard” was detectible by the Plaintiff.

The finding in this case illustrates the fact that liability for a motor vehicle accident often turns on the specific facts of the case and can be unpredictable particularly in left turn scenarios.

Have a comment? We would welcome your comments directly. lzacharias@bakernewby.com