Court finds defendant driver 100% liable for turning left into overtaking motorcyclist

In reasons for judgment released last week, the court in Ratelle v. Barton, 2017 BCSC 1262, found the defendant driver 100% at fault for a collision with a motorcycle.  In Ratelle, the plaintiff was riding his motorcycle on the sea-to-sky highway and attempted to overtake and pass the defendant driver when the defendant suddenly turned left to exit the highway, hitting the plaintiff causing a fairly serious crash.  In finding the defendant wholly at fault Madam Justice Maisonville said:

[143]     I find that the defendant is 100 percent at fault for the accident.  Had the defendant checked his mirrors during the drive, signaled his intention to turn left by putting on his turn indicator or shoulder checked to determine that it was clear and safe to pass, in compliance with s. 165 and 170 of the Motor Vehicle Act, this accident would not have happened.  The defendant failed to demonstrate due care and attention.  The plaintiff had followed the defendant’s vehicle at a safe distance and initiated a legal pass at a dotted line when it was safe to do so. 

[144]     I accept all three witnesses who testified that Heliport Road can be referred to as a driveway which turns to gravel just shortly after the entrance and the fact that there is no street sign makes it completely dissimilar from a typical intersection.

[145]     I find the defendant was driving without due care and attention and without reasonable consideration for others on the highway, in breach of s. 144 of the Motor Vehicle Act, considering that the motorcycles were there to be seen.

[146]     Section 165(2)(a) of the Motor Vehicle Act as well obliges the defendant to bring his vehicle to the centre line, separating his lane of traffic from oncoming traffic before commencing his left turn.  Instead, the defendant testified that his vehicle was in the centre of the lane before he commenced his turn, and indeed the plaintiff and Mr. Martinello gave evidence that it was near to the right shoulder of the lane.

[147]     I find that the defendant did not activate his turn signal and failed to, otherwise, indicate his intention to turn left.  Instead, he was manoeuvring to the right before beginning with a left turn.  He also failed to perform a shoulder check.  He failed to pay due care and attention to check the traffic behind him, instead, assuming he was alone on the road.  The defendant failed to properly check his mirrors, if at all.  Those motorcycles were there to be seen for quite a way as they travelled before the accident.  

[148]     As a consequence of his own negligence, the defendant was unaware of the presence of the two motorcyclists behind him and he failed to clearly indicate his intention to turn.  I find that the defendant was in the best position to see the plaintiff intending to pass his vehicle but by not having adequately checked his mirrors or performed shoulder check, he failed to notice the motorcyclists: see Bathgate at para. 87.

The full judgment can be found here:  http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/17/12/2017BCSC1262.htm