Street Racer Found Partly Liable for Other Vehicles Fatal Crash

Interesting reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding a street racer partly liable for the death of a passenger in another vehicle that he did not collide with.

In today’s case (Suran v. Auckland) Cadillac and a Chrysler 300 were involved in a street race. Police subsequently blocked off the road and the driver of the Cadillac was apprehended The driver of the Chrysler backed up and drove around the road block and “proceeded down a steep embankment and dropped over a retaining wall, before finally coming to rest at the bottom of a ravine.”. A passenger in the vehicle died when”he was unable to extricate himself from the vehicle when it caught fire. His body was found partially seated on the right front passenger’s seat area with his feet trapped between the right front passenger’s door and the ground.”

The passenger’s family sued and both motorists were found partly to blame with the passenger himself being faulted with 25% contributory negligence. In holding the driver of the Cadillac partly at fault for the death even though he was in police custody at the time Madam Justice Burke provided the following reasons:

[195] I conclude Mr. Marwaha in the Cadillac and Mr. Auluck in the Chrysler 300 were engaged in a common (unlawful) course of action that ultimately precipitated the catastrophic accident and death of Mr. Suran. It was reasonably foreseeable, as argued by Ms. Suran, that participation by Mr. Marwaha in a street race at high speed on a busy street would attract police attention and action, which it did. It was also reasonably foreseeable that Mr. Auluck would flee the police as he did, based on his erratic and dangerous behaviour throughout the evening.

[196] There is, therefore, sufficient proximity and foreseeability for Mr. Marwaha to be found partially liable for the accident. As he was indeed stopped by the police and could no longer participate in the race, I conclude Mr. Marwaha’s culpability for the accident lies at 10%.

Uninsured, Self Represented Litigant Learns that Perjury is a Poor Idea

From the vault of how not to represent yourself in court, reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, admonishing a self represented litigant for providing the Court with perjured evidence.

In today’s case (Dizon v. Losier) the Defendant rear-ended a vehicle driven by the Plaintiff.  The Defendant was uninsured at the time and represented himself in court.  As part of his defense strategy he called a witness who said he witnessed the collision and the Plaintiff stopped for no reason.  On cross examination it became clear that this witness did not see the collision and colluded to provide this friendly evidence for the Defendant.  The Court went on to find the Defendant largely at fault for the crash, ordering payment of almost $40,000 in damages, costs, and one day of ‘specical costs’ for the perjured evidence. In admonishing this evidence Madam Justice Russell provided the following comments:

[43]         Mr. Losier called a witness who provided completely concocted evidence about seeing the plaintiff’s car stop for no reason just before the accident. This witness, Mr. Dale Carmount, was asked by this Court if he had known the defendant before the accident. This was done in order to test whether there had been any complicity with respect to this convenient account of events. Mr. Carmount denied having met the plaintiff before the accident. Instead, he said he had responded to a notice posted by Mr. Losier asking for witnesses to the accident.

[44]         In cross-examination, plaintiff’s counsel referred to a Facebook page that Mr. Carmount denied existed, but which was clearly that of Mr. Carmount, and then asked him about family relationships. Mr. Carmount then revealed that, through family in Ontario, Mr. Carmount and Mr. Losier were acquainted before the accident.

[45]         In light of this evidence, I find that the two of them developed a statement for Mr. Carmount to sign that was completely untrue. Mr. Carmount had not witnessed the accident occurring as he had stated under oath.

[46]         That this evidence amounted to perjury, for which both participants could have been prosecuted, was not lost on Mr. Losier. He tendered an apology to the Court.

[47]         This turn of events significantly undermined the reliability of the defendant’s evidence.

[84]         … the plaintiff will be awarded one day of special costs for the unnecessary delay in this matter for the consideration of the perjured evidence from the defendant.

Pub Found Partly At Fault for Crash Caused by “Visibly Intoxicated” Patron

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding a Pub jointly and severally liable for a collision by a patron who was served alcohol to the point of visible intoxication.

In today’s case (Widdows v. Rockwell) the Defendant drove a vehicle and collided with the Plaintiff pedestrian.  The crash caused severe injuries, including brain damage.

At the time the Defendant was “quite literally, falling-down drunk.“.

Prior to the crash the Defendant was drinking at a local pub. In finding the pub jointly and severally liable for over serving a patron and failing to take reasonable steps to ensure he was not driving Mr. Justice Kent provided the following reasons:

[58]         Insofar as Rockwell’s consumption is concerned, I do not accept his evidence that he only consumed 2 1/2 beers at the pub.  Rather, I find as a fact that each of the co-workers bought at least one round of drinks for the other members of the group (and possibly more) and that Rockwell himself bought at least two rounds that included beer (for himself and Sauve), vodka (for Sahanovitch) and Fireball whiskey shooters (for all).  I find as a fact that by the time he left the pub to retrieve his truck, Rockwell had consumed at least five to six drinks, a combination of beer and liquor, and that he was significantly intoxicated by alcohol.  I also have no doubt, and I find as a fact, that the influence of alcohol on Rockwell was exacerbated by both a lack of food in the preceding 12 to 15 hours (and probably longer), and a high level of fatigue caused by extremely long work hours and inadequate sleep over an extended period of time.  His ability to drive safely was significantly impaired when he left the pub.

[59]         I recognize another possible theory of Rockwell’s intoxication is that he drank only two to three beers at the pub and in the two-hour period thereafter, he consumed substantial quantities of beer and/or liquor, whether at home or elsewhere, before the accident occurred.  While it certainly appears that Sahanovitch was an aggressive and irresponsible drinker of a sort who might engage in such behaviour, there is no evidence to support such a characterization of Rockwell.  When one subtracts the amount of time that it would have taken for Rockwell to drive home, this theory would require him to have consumed an enormous amount of alcohol in less than an hour, a proposition which is not consistent with his previous conduct and which, assessed from the perspective of robust logic and common sense, amounts to nothing more than wishful thinking and unfounded speculation on the part of Cambie Malone’s.

[60]         I am also satisfied however, and find as a fact, that Rockwell did indeed consume further alcohol after he departed the pub.  On the balance of probabilities, I find that this occurred at his residence and included consumption of vodka or other liquor in quantities more than Rockwell claims in his evidence.

[61]         It is not necessary to ascribe a precise figure to the amount of alcohol that Rockwell consumed after he left the pub.  It is sufficient to find that he was significantly intoxicated when he left the pub and that he became even more severely intoxicated through the consumption of additional alcohol before the accident happened…

[73]         In this particular case the affidavits from the pub employees all referred to the employees having successfully completed the “Serving It Right”, which is British Columbia’s mandatory “Responsible Beverage Service Program”.  This is a program sponsored by the provincial government and the hospitality industry which offers information about intoxication, as well as guidelines and suggestions for, as the tagline suggests, “responsible beverage service”.  Rather cleverly, none of the employee affidavits expressly disclosed the information and conduct guidelines suggested in the “Serving It Right” program.  Instead, all that was proffered was what was said to be Cambie Malone’s written “Policies and Procedures” which included the following paragraph:

It is your responsibility to ensure patrons do not become intoxicated while in the establishment.  You must refuse entrance and/or service to any person who is apparently under the influence of alcohol or drugs.  Moreover, persons visibly under the influence of drugs or alcohol may not be permitted to remain in the establishment.  You must refuse the person service, have the person removed and see that they depart safely.  Intoxicated persons must NOT be permitted to drive.  It is your duty to ensure that a safe ride home is used.  This is a crucial responsibility of everyone in the alcohol service industry.

[74]         While the standard of care expected of a commercial host will, in large part, be governed by the particular circumstances of any given case, there are several general standards of conduct that could well apply simply as a matter of common sense, including:

·       ensure there are adequate supervision, monitoring and training systems in place so employees know and abide by responsible serving practices;

·       ensure there is a sufficient number of serving staff on duty so that effective monitoring of alcohol consumption by patrons is possible;

·       ensure employees know the signs of intoxication and the various factors that influence intoxication (gender, weight, rate of consumption, food, et cetera);

·       inquire if the patron is driving and identify any “designated driver” for groups of patrons;

·       know how to estimate blood-alcohol concentrations and ensure any driver does not consume more than the appropriate number of drinks to stay on the “right side” of the legal limit;

·       display “tent cards” on tables, posters on walls and washrooms, and menu inserts with easy-to-read charts and information about blood-alcohol concentration;

·       ask apparently-intoxicated patrons if you contact anyone to assist them or if you can get them a taxi and, if necessary, offer to pay for it;

·       display posters advertising free ride-home services available in the neighbourhood; and

·       if the patron rejects alternative options and insists on driving, despite being urged otherwise, contact the police to seek assistance and/or provide whatever information might encourage their intervention.

[75]         None of these things occurred in the present case.  Rather, the pub’s employees utterly failed in abiding by their own employer’s directive that “intoxicated persons (e.g., Rockwell) must not be permitted to drive”.  I have no hesitation in concluding that the employees, and therefore Cambie Malone’s, did not meet the requisite standard of care in the circumstances of this particular case and that their conduct was accordingly negligent.

$217,500 in Damages Ordered Following Suckerpunch Assault

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, ordering the payment of $217,500 in total damages after the Plaintiff was injured in an assault/battery.

In today’s case (Rycroft v. Rego) the Plaintiff alleged he was injured in an altercation with the Defendant.  Although the Court heard differing versions of events the Court concluded the Defendant through an “unexpected” punch to the Plaintiff which began a brief physical scuffle.

In finding the Defendant culpable for the assault and the injuries that arose Mr. Justice Williams made the following findings of fact:

[30]         Based on my examination of all of the evidence, my conclusions with respect to what occurred are as follows.

[31]         In order to investigate the reported damage caused to the bike park, shortly after returning home, the plaintiff entered the yard behind his residence. Immediately before the altercation, while Mr. Rycroft was walking at a moderate pace in the general direction of his own home, Mr. Rego, walking quite briskly, approached him.

[32]         I accept that the plaintiff said words to the effect of “you must be the dad; I do not want kids playing there anymore.”

[33]         I find that, at that point, the defendant struck the side of the plaintiff’s head. The version of events which most sensibly and logically explains the resulting bruise is that, when he was struck, Mr. Rycroft had his head turned to the right. The punch was of significant force and unexpected.

[34]         As a consequence of the blow, the plaintiff went down in a forward direction, ending up on his knees. He had his hands on the ground. The defendant immediately applied some type of headlock to Mr. Rycroft from behind.

[35]         The two men struggled, with Mr. Rego behind and above Mr. Rycroft. No significant blows were landed.

[36]         The physical engagement ended fairly quickly. The defendant let go of the plaintiff and moved away, and the plaintiff got to his feet.

[37]         The defendant said something to the effect of “do you want round two?” or “do you want some more?” The plaintiff responded in the affirmative, I expect probably more reflexively than seriously, but did nothing physically to further engage with the defendant. Instead, the plaintiff reached into his pocket, took out his phone, and called 911.

[38]         At that point, the defendant and his wife left and went home.

[39]         In the course of the altercation, the plaintiff sustained an injury to his left temple area, an injury which is depicted in the photo marked Exhibit 6. I find that bruise was caused by a blow from the defendant.

[40]         It is also reasonable to conclude that Mr. Rycroft sustained minor injuries to his arm, his elbow area, and his hand, likely from going to the ground.

[41]         Finally, I accept that the plaintiff incurred some injury to his knees, also resulting from going to the ground.

$40,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment for Intermittent, Lingering Soft Tissue Injuries

Today’s guest post comes from B.C. injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, assessing damages for lingering intermittent soft tissue injuries.

In today’s case (Erwin v. Buhler) the Plaintiff was involved in a 2011 rear end collision that the Defendant was responsible for.  The Plaintiff alleged that he suffered from bursitis in his hip due to the crash but the Court found this condition was most likely caused by other factors.  The Court did find the Plaintiff suffered various soft tissue injuries, some of which remained symptomatic on an intermittent basis at the time of trial.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $40,000 Mr. Justice Armstrong provided the following reasons:

[117]     I am, however, satisfied that the plaintiff suffered neck, low back and shoulder injuries as a result of the car accident. Notwithstanding Dr. McGraw’s assessment that the plaintiff no longer experiences headaches or neck pain, I find that he has in fact been troubled by these symptoms on an intermittent basis. His low back was really sore for about a month after which Dr. McGraw assumed the pain was resolved. I also accept that he has intermittent low back and neck pain.

[122]     I have concluded from all of the evidence that the plaintiff suffered neck, shoulder and low back injuries at the time of the accident. Although the symptoms seem to have mostly resolved within one year of the accident, he has continued to experience intermittent back, neck and shoulder problems related to activity.

[123]     It is difficult to discriminate between the impacts on the plaintiff’s life arising from the trochanter bursitis and the other soft tissue injuries he suffered. Nonetheless, I accept that he is at an age where the severity and duration of ongoing pain, albeit intermittent, is troublesome for him. His compensable injuries co-exist with his non-compensable injuries. I am satisfied that the demands of his work elevate his trochanter bursitis symptoms but also his neck and back symptoms. It is hard to estimate whether he will eventually become asymptomatic in his neck and back areas but I find that they will continue to impact his life in the near future. The defendant need not compensate the plaintiff for his hip complaints but, his overall quality of life seems to be affected by the compensable injuries on an intermittent but troublesome basis for him.

[124]     The cases cited by the plaintiff did not provide much assistance in assessing the plaintiff’s non-pecuniary damages. In my view, the circumstances described in Stein are most helpful to my assessment of the plaintiff’s claim in this case.

[125]     Overall, I am satisfied that the plaintiff is entitled to non-pecuniary damages of $40,000.

Limitation Period Not Postponed Where “Injuries Prove to be More Severe Than Initially Believed”

Today the BC Court of Appeal published reasons for judgement upholding the dismissal of a medical malpractice claim that was brought out of time.

In today’s case (Bell v. Wigmore) the Defendant “ performed a syringing procedure, irrigating and flushing” the Plaintiff’s ear.  The Plaintiff alleged this was done negligently and as a result the Plaintiff went on to suffer from long term dysfunction.   The Plaintiff started the lawsuit almost 6 years after the incident when the applicable limitation period was two years.

The case was dismissed at trial and the Plaintiff appealed arguing the limitation period should have been postponed because in the initial period “he had every reason to believe that his injuries were transient and relatively minor”.

The BC Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal finding there was no good reason to postpone the running of the limitation period.  In reaching this conclusion the Court provided the following legal summary:

23]        The mere fact that injuries prove to be more severe than initially believed will not serve to postpone the running of the limitation period: Peixeiro v. Haberman, [1997] 3 S.C.R. 549; Craig v. Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, 2005 BCCA 275. On the other hand, where it can be shown that the injuries were not, initially, sufficiently serious that a reasonable person would seek advice concerning a lawsuit, the running of the limitation period may be postponed to a time when the seriousness of the injuries became evident.

[24]        In Brooks v. Jackson, the plaintiff experienced a hemorrhage following the birth of her child. She was advised that “she should expect to be unwell for approximately two years, the length of time it would take to get her blood back and recover from the delivery.” Some four years later, she was diagnosed with Sheehan’s Syndrome, and soon after determined that the syndrome could have been brought on by the hemorrhage.

[25]        This Court found that the limitation period did not start to run until the plaintiff was diagnosed with Sheehan’s Syndrome:

[32]        In my opinion, a reasonable person in the position of Ms. Brooks would not have sought legal advice or further medical advice prior to the diagnosis of Sheehan’s Syndrome. She was advised in January 1998 she had no physical sequela from the delivery and she was satisfied with the answers Dr. Jackson gave to her questions. A reasonable person, in those circumstances, would not seek legal advice to determine whether there was a cause of action against Dr. Jackson. Ms. Brooks had no reason to believe that the temporary loss of blood had caused a permanent injury of a qualitatively different nature. It is my view that a reasonable person would not have sought legal advice until realizing the damage was more than transient in nature. Accordingly, the running of time in the limitation period was postponed until Ms. Brooks was diagnosed with Sheehan’s Syndrome, and the limitation period had not expired prior to the commencement of the action.

[26]        Brooks does not stand for the proposition that the running of a limitation period is postponed whenever a plaintiff has reason to believe that a condition will eventually subside. The question of whether a reasonable person would seek further advice turns on a number of factors. A court must consider the apparent severity of the injury and the duration and magnitude of its impact on the plaintiff’s lifestyle. A court will also consider whether, in the circumstances of the case, the plaintiff had good reason to suspect that someone was at fault in causing their injuries.

[27]        In Brooks, legal and medical advice, if taken early on, might have led the plaintiff to understand that she had a reasonable cause of action. It would not, however, have been reasonable for her to take such advice, as she was unaware that she had suffered serious harm, and had little reason to suspect that the harm she had suffered was a result of negligence.

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