In the recently decided case of Gardiner v. MacDonald,
2016 ONSC 602, Madame Justice Roccamo presided over a trial arising
from a brutal collision where a public transit bus T-boned an SUV
at 1:54 a.m., on a cold, January morning, in Ottawa.
The public transit bus was travelling northbound on a
well-travelled road in the "bus lane", and entered the
intersection on a green light. The SUV was travelling westbound and
entered the same intersection on a red light when it was struck by
the bus, and propelled in a northerly direction until it came to a
rest in the snowy and slushy street. The collision was so bad that
the bus crossed a snow-covered median before coming to rest in a
Alcohol use by the driver of the SUV was a factor in the
collision; no charges were laid against the bus driver as a result
of the accident, but tragically, 3 of the occupants of the SUV,
including the driver, were fatally injured. A fourth occupant
sustained catastrophic injuries.
The only issue at trial was whether the bus driver (and by
extension the municipality) was partially liable for the
Justice Roccamo heard detailed evidence regarding the weather
and road conditions (snowy, slushy and slippery). She concluded
with the assistance of experts that a lower rate of speed would
have given the bus driver time to evade the SUV.
Even though the trial judge noted that speeding does not in
itself constitute negligence, she found that the bus driver's
slightly excessive speed in the particular road and weather
conditions was unwarranted. She held that the bus driver breached
the standard of care in the circumstances, and that the breach
contributed to the collision. Had the bus been operating at a
slower speed, the trial judge found, the bus driver may have
recognized and reacted to the clear hazard of the oncoming SUV.
Significantly, in assessing the appropriate standard of care,
Justice Roccamo ruled that professional drivers — such as bus
drivers — will be held to a higher standard of care than the
general public. The standard in this particular case was whether
the bus driver met the standard of a 'reasonable bus driver in
It is noteworthy that the trial judge did not receive expert
evidence defining the standard of care applicable to a bus driver
in the circumstances faced in this accident. Nevertheless, the
trial judge relied on the well-settled appellate authority that
expert evidence is not required for "non-technical matters or
those of which an ordinary person may be expected to have
knowledge." The trial judge found the standard of care in this
case does not give rise to considerations beyond common
understanding. She apportioned liability on the bus driver (and by
extension the municipality) at a whopping 20%.
There are many instructive aspects of this well-reasoned 197
paragraph decision. At first blush, it was certainly surprising
that a vehicle operating with the clear right of way through an
intersection could be conceivably found to be 20% liable,
especially when the other driver was intoxicated and egregiously
ran a red light. However, this case is a cautionary tale that
professional drivers will be held to a high standard of care,
arguably much higher. The focus in this trial was on the
(un)reasonable driving of the bus driver, not the conduct of the
admitted at-fault driver of the SUV.
It's not often that our little blog intersects with such titanic struggles as the U.S. presidential race – and by using the term "titanic" I certainly don't mean to suggest that anything disastrous is in the future.
J.J. v. C.C., is an interesting case in which the court held that an automotive garage owes a duty to minor children to secure the vehicles on the premises by locking the cars and safely storing the car keys...
In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).