08 Aug Surrey Man Injured in Accident Caused by Defective Truck – Part 1
This is the first of a series of three posts on the recent decision in Hans v. Volvo Trucks North America Inc., 2016 BCSC 1155. This post summarizes the events of the accident and the basis for the Plaintiffs’ lawsuit. To follow are posts discussing Volvo’s responsibility for the accident and an analysis of the damages award.
At about 10:00 p.m. on a cold winter’s night east of Winnipeg, Amandeep Hans was on the return leg of a long-haul trucking run across the continent in his Volvo 780 semi-trailer truck. He was driving while his wife, Pavandeep, rested in a sleeper berth behind him. With a full load in the trailer and icy road conditions, Amandeep kept his speed between 65-70kmph. Suddenly, the electronics in the big truck failed completely and went dark. When the lights went out, so did the power steering. This meant that Amandeep could no longer correct the continuous sway of the heavy trailer, which began to jackknife towards the cab. The trailer’s trajectory put it on a collision course with the driver’s side of the cab where Amandeep, helpless, sat only a few feet away from the truck’s fuel tanks.
Sparks flew. Tires squealed. The trailer hurtled into the cab, forcing the truck into the ditch where it came to rest.
Amazingly, Amandeep and his wife did not suffer serious physical injuries in the accident. The collision did not set the fuel tanks ablaze and both were able to exit the truck. However, the psychological impact of these events would change both of their lives.
Pavandeep sustained a minor concussion and soft tissue injuries which resolved in about a year. Unfortunately, the accident had a far more serious effect on Amandeep. He developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression. He became suicidal and required hospitalization following a number of suicide attempts. He needed extensive medications to maintain his mental and emotional stability. He could no longer work. Only through constant supervision could he be kept from self-harm.
Mr. and Mrs. Hans brought an action against Volvo alleging negligent design and manufacture of the 780 truck, as well as a breach of the duty to warn of the potential of a catastrophic electrical failure. This area of law is known as “products liability”. They were essentially alleging that defects in their 780 truck, a product engineered, built, and sold by Volvo, caused the accident and the conditions they suffered as a consequence.
The next post on this case will deal with the question of Volvo’s responsibility for the accident.