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Siskinds LLP’s personal injury lawyer, Mariana Peres Toledo, was recently published in The Lawyer’s Daily. In this article, Mariana examines a situation involving a motor vehicle collision in which liability may be apportioned differently.

This article was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily (www.thelawyersdaily.ca), part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

Read the full article below.

Mariana Peres Toledo – The Lawyer’s Daily – Posted: June 24, 2022

Many motor vehicle collisions take place at intersections. According to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in May 2020, 30 per cent of collision fatalities and 40 per cent of serious injuries occur at intersections. At an intersection drivers can make right or left turns, which if not done with due care, may result in collisions. In Ontario in 2020, the Ministry of Transportation reported a total of 21,889 collisions involving a turning movement.

Traffic lights and stop and yield signs inform drivers of when it is their turnto proceed. They also assist in the apportionment of liability whencollisions happen at intersections. However, even if a driver fails to complywith the traffic sign, it may not necessarily mean they are a 100 per centat fault in an accident. While there are collisions in which an individual is100 per cent at fault, there is a plethora of situations in which liability maybe apportioned differently. The British Columbia Court of Appeal decision Steinlauf v. Deol 2022 BCCA 96 illustrates this point.

In this appeal, Pawandeep Deol, the appellant (defendant in the original claim), challenged the trial judge’s apportionment of liability in a claim resulting from a motor vehicle collision. Shawn Steinlauf, the respondent (plaintiff in the original claim), was turning left when he was struck by a tractor-trailer driven by Deol, who was proceeding straight ahead and travelling in the opposite direction. The trial judge and the B.C. Court of Appeal decided on the apportionment of liability at 15 per cent to Steinlauf and 85 per cent to Deol.

The Court of Appeal determined that: “[while] a through-driver has the right-of-way when it is close enough to [an intersection to] constitute an immediate hazard, right-of-way is determinative ofneither negligence nor apportionment.”

To arrive at its conclusion, the B.C. Court of Appeal considered the fact that Steinlauf entered the intersection on a green light, which then turned yellow as he waited to make his left turn. The court referred to s. 174 of the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act (Motor Vehicle Act, RSBC 1996, c 318 at s. 174(MVA)), which reads:

When a vehicle is in an intersection and its driver intends to turn left, the driver must yield the right of way to traffic approaching from the opposite direction that is in the intersection or so close as to constitute an immediate hazard, but having yielded and given a signal as required by sections 171 and 172, the driver may turn the vehicle to the left, and traffic approaching the intersection from the opposite direction must yield the right of way to the vehicle making the left turn.

The Court of Appeal explained that s. 174 applies when a vehicle enters an intersection preparing to make a left turn, and not when it is approaching the intersection. For the court, Deol breached s.128(1)(a), which requires a driver approaching an intersection and facing a yellow light to stop before entering a marked crosswalk or before entering the intersection, unless the stop cannot be made safely.

Footage from a dash cam and expert reports led the court to conclude that “Mr. Deol was about 64 meters from the intersection when the light turned yellow and could have stopped safely.” In turn, 15 per cent of the liability was apportioned to Steinlauf as “he began his turn without looking for oncoming traffic.”

To date, there are no Ontario reported decisions that have cited Steinlauf v. Deol for persuasion. The Ontario Highway Traffic Act (HTA) has no provision identical to s. 174 of the MVA. The closest provision of the HTA to s. 174 of the MVA is s. 141(5) of the HTA, which reads:

No driver or operator of a vehicle in an intersection shall turn left across the path of a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction unless he or she has afforded a reasonable opportunity to the driver or operator of the approaching vehicle to avoid a collision. (Highway Traffic Act, RSO 1990, c H.8 at 141(5))

In Ontario, a driver bears a heavy responsibility to ensure that their intended left turn can be made safely. However, the determination of negligence and apportionment of liability may not be fixed or clear-cut in every case (see Boudreau v. Hiltz 2018 ONSC 694 at para. 78). Expert reports, dash cams, video footage and the memory of lay witnesses and drivers involved in a collision are crucial for one to gain understanding of how a collision took place.