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Lawyer Wins New Trial on Colour of Traffic Light


In a stunning decision the BC Court of Appeal ordered a new trial after this personal injury claim was wrongly dismissed(Miller v. Dent, 2014 BCCA 234).  The trial judge failed to determine whether the traffic light was green, red or yellow at the material time and therefore the Court of Appeal found that it was wrong to have dismissed the claim.
The accident occurred at the intersection of Austin Avenue and Gatineau Place near the Lougheed Mall in Burnaby, B.C. when the injury claimant, turning left, was hit by an oncoming car going straight. The trial judge was wrong about the cause of the accident and overlooked critical pieces of evidence, including the testimony of a witness, about the colour of the light before the impact.  Judges must determine the colour of a traffic light before finding fault, according to the BC Court of Appeal. As judge Garson points out:

[28] I do not agree with the respondent that the appellant has failed to demonstrate a palpable and overriding error. In my view, the judge did err. I conclude that the judge erred in law by embarking on the s. 174 analysis without making the findings of fact necessary to underpin that analysis. Further, the judge did not make a finding of fact either accepting or rejecting Mr. Miller’s or Ms. Dent’s evidence. Last, the judge dismissed the case on the basis that Mr. Miller failed to prove Ms. Dent “must have been mistaken” about entering on the green light because there was no evidence of the light sequence timing or the distance Ms. Dent had to travel from entering the intersection to the point of impact.

[29]         There are no doubt cases where a judge may simply conclude that a plaintiff has not discharged his burden of proof. But here his reasoning does not support such a result. In my view, the judge ignored the common sense inference that the light sequence could not possibly be so rapid that Ms. Dent could enter on a green light travelling at 30−50 kms per hour, as was her unrefuted testimony, cross up to five lanes of traffic to the point of impact, in the amount of time the light could sequence from green to yellow to red as observed by Ms. Kemppi

 As a result the personal injury lawyer representing the claimant  has another chance to  prove that (1) the defendant entered the intersection against a red light; (2) she entered the intersection on a yellow light in circumstances where she could have stopped safely; or (3) the defendant’s speed was negligent in the circumstances.
Posted by Personal Injury Lawyer Mr. Renn A. Holness, B.A. LL.B.
 
 

Tags: At Fault, Immediate Hazard, Negligence, Personal Injury lawyer, Section 174 Motor Vehicle Act, witnesses

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