30 Sep Black Ice and Inevitable Accident

To claim damages an injured Plaintiff must establish liability, proving that the Defendant was at fault.   In some cases, a Defendant may argue that he or she is not liable based on the “inevitable accident” defense.  In other words, there was nothing that the Defendant could have done to avoid the collision.

In Hutton v. Breitkreutz, 2015 BCSC 1164, the Defendant argued that she hit black ice and lost traction, causing her to slide into oncoming traffic and strike the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  Madam Justice Fenlon rejected this argument for five reasons.

  1. The Defendant and other witnesses did not report ice at the scene.
  2. Other vehicles had travelled the same road in front of the Defendant and had not lost control.
  3. Three of the Defendant’s tires were in poor condition.
  4. The Defendant was travelling too fast for the conditions. Although she was travelling 65 km/hour in a 90 km/hour zone, it was too fast given the road and weather conditions.
  5. The Defendant had not taken steps to ensure her tires were roadworthy. She had purchased a used vehicle from a friend a few weeks before trial.  She admitted she was focused on the body and never checked the tires.

The Court concluded the Defendant:

[15] … did not intend to cause an accident that day or to cause harm to the Hutton family, but that is not the measure of liability in a case such as this. Ms. Breitkreutz owed a duty of care to others on the roadway to exercise the care of a reasonable and prudent driver in the circumstances. I find she breached that duty of care for the reasons I have just given, and I find that her negligence caused the accident.

The Court considered damages and awarded approximately $235,000.