Court finds railway company liable for collision at uncontrolled crossing

In reasons for judgment released on Tuesday, the court in Chand v. Martin, 2017 BCSC 1232, found Southern Railway liable for a collision occurring at an uncontrolled train crossing.  In Chand the court found that the railway company's employee ought to have slowed the train down prior to approaching the crossing, as the crossing lights were not functioning.  Madam Justice Russell wrote:

[1]            On April 16, 2007, the plaintiff, Mr. Treves Chand (“Mr. Chand”), was involved in a motor vehicle accident with a train owned and operated by Southern Railway of British Columbia Limited (“Southern”). The accident occurred at a railway crossing just north of the intersection of Scott Road and Larson Road (the “Scott Road Crossing” or the “Crossing”) in Surrey, BC. As a result of the accident, Mr. Chand and the vehicle’s two passengers, Mr. Kamaljit Kalyan and Mr. Rick Kumar, sustained serious injuries, with the latter’s injuries being fatal.

[2]            Mr. Chand brings this action on the basis of negligence. It is his contention that the railway crossing lights did not activate to warn those travelling northbound towards the intersection that a train was about to cross. Consequently, he maintains that Southern was negligent in maintaining the lights. In addition, he submits that, at the time of the collision, at least one of the train’s crew members was negligently carrying out their duties, raising the issue of vicarious liability.

[69]        In my view, it is self-evident that a failure to either ensure a train stops before entering a crossing where the signal lights are off, or a failure to keep a lookout, constitutes an unreasonable risk of harm which violates the requisite standard of care. Either way, I find that Mr. Cohen failed to meet the standard of care which was incumbent on him as the train’s conductor. He was the employee charged with ensuring the safety of the public by both watching for the signal lights, via the wigwags, (on his side of the train) and for observing the intersection (from his side of the train) through which the train was about to proceed. I am supported in this finding by the fact that both internal and general regulations required him to ensure that the train would not enter the Crossing in the event the signal lights that only he could observe from his side were not functioning. He failed in this regard.

...

[93]        I find that, due to Mr. Cohen’s conduct on the night in question, Southern is vicariously liable in negligence to Mr. Chand.

The full decision can be found here: http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/17/06/2017BCSC0660.htm