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Driving off the Road not Always Negligent


There is no presumption of negligence in law simply because a vehicle hauling a trailer drives off the road. In a unanimous reversal this son’s negligence claim against his father has been sent back for a new trial.( click here to read Haynes v. Haynes, 2017 BCCA 131 )
A father and son were hauling a trailer loaded with an old Bronco from Rayleigh (near Kamloops) to a scrapyard when the vehicle began to  wobble and then the trailer began to “whip from side to side”.  The vehicle went off the road and the claimant was injured. The trial judge found the father negligent but the Court of Appeal found that it was equally plausible that a tire blow caused an inevitable accident with no negligence.

The father was not believed by the trial judge but the first important legal principle of this case:

“The fact that a witness is disbelieved does not prove the opposite of what he asserted”

The second important legal principle, not new, is that a statutory breach does not automatically give rise to civil liability. So a breach of a Motor Vehicle Act regulation does not automatically result in a finding of negligence. Imposing liability in negligence due to breach of a regulation would effectively amount to an application of strict liability.

As the Court of Appeal stated in allowing the appeal and setting aside the trial judge’s order:

[27] In the result, I conclude with respect that the trial judge erred in fact in proceeding on the basis that the defendant did not testify that he had slowed his vehicle when it began to wobble; and in failing to engage in a proper analysis of causation. Nor did she explain how the speed of the defendant’s vehicle or how his failing to check his side mirrors caused or contributed to the mishap. Further, if an inference arose on the facts of this case that the defendant was driving too fast in all the circumstances, the judge was clearly wrong in rejecting the possibility that the mishap may have been the result of the flat tire on the trailer. She also erred in law in proceeding on the basis that the defendant violated s. 7.07(3) of the regulation and was therefore negligent as a matter of law.

Tags: At Fault, Legal Causation, liability, Negligence, Presumption of Negligence

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