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Driver not liable after pedestrian struck in Langley: judge

Victim was walking in the road on rainy night
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BC Supreme Court in New Westminster. (Black Press Media files)

A Langley farmer who hit a pedestrian with a pickup truck has been found not liable for the victim’s serious injuries, after a judge ruled the injured man had put himself in harm’s way.

The plaintiff in the case was 35 years old on the night of Oct. 30, 2018, when he was hit by a pickup truck and flung into a ditch by the side of 240th Street.

He was left with a traumatic brain injury that has impacted his cognition and his memory.

“His prognosis remains poor to guarded,” wrote Justice John Gibb-Carsley, in his recent ruling on the case. “He will require ongoing care in the future, including some form of assisted living.”

The plaintiff’s lawyer argued that the driver of the pickup was at fault and had failed to take proper account of the road conditions, and should have been using high-beam headlights at the time. If he had done so, he could have avoided the accident, the lawyer argued.

But Gibb-Carsley agreed with the defence, which argued that between the weather, the darkness, and the victim’s actions, the collision was unavoidable.

The crash took place at 8 p.m., after dark, in heavy rain, and the driver testified that he had been driving at about 50 km/h with his windshield wipers on their full speed.

The pedestrian was walking in the same direction as traffic, wearing dark clothing with a hood pulled up, and his path had veered into the road.

Gibb-Carsley found that he was about 0.8 metres into the traffic lane when the accident took place.

In addition, the pedestrian had apparently been drinking heavily that afternoon. A blood sample taken later at the hospital found a blood alcohol level that suggested he had consumed the equivalent of eight doubles between noon and 4 p.m. that day.

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Finally, evidence at the trial pointed out that both ICBC’s safe driving courses and Transport Canada’s guidelines recommend avoiding using high beam headlights in heavy rain, as the light reflects back and makes it harder to see the road and obstacles.

The driver did see the pedestrian just before impact, and hit the brakes. An accident reconstruction said the truck was going about 39 km/h at the time of impact.

“No reasonable driver, exercising proper diligence, could have avoided striking the plaintiff in the circumstances,” Gibb-Carsley wrote in his ruling. “As such, I must dismiss the plaintiff’s claim.”

The driver, testifying at the trial, said that he knew immediately he had hit someone. He stopped the truck and searched for the pedestrian, but couldn’t locate him, finding only a shoe on the road. He called 911 and his brother, an off-duty firefighter to come and help.

The pedestrian was later found by emergency responders in a nearby ditch.

The collision was a “truly tragic case,” Gibb-Carsley wrote, leaving the pedestrian with major life-changing injuries, which he has worked to overcome through rehab over the last few years. It also left the driver with emotional trauma.

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Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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