22 Nov Suing the Ministry of Highways and Transportation
The main issue in the case of Bayfield v. British Columbia (Ministry of Transportation), 2016 BCSC 1965, was whether the Province of British Columbia was liable for causing an accident by negligently designing and constructing a highway median.
The Plaintiff was involved a very serious single vehicle accident on the Inland Island Highway. At the time of the accident she was travelling at approximately 100km/h in a 110km/h zone. The road was very wet as it had been raining heavily all day. The Plaintiff’s vehicle began to hydroplane on the wet surface and the Plaintiff lost control. The vehicle left the road surface and went over into the center median. The median at this section of the highway was an area of sloped grass and dirt between the northbound and southbound lanes of the highway, and it had accumulated a significant amount of rainwater and not drained properly.
Upon driving into the median the vehicle’s wheels dug into the muddy and waterlogged soil and “tripped” into a rollover. The vehicle rolled across the median before coming to a rest in the opposite lane of the highway.
The Plaintiff alleged that the median at this point in the highway suffered from drainage difficulties and that the Province knew, or ought to have known, that any deviation in the design or construction of this median would increase the frequency and severity of accidents. The Plaintiff argued that if the median had been constructed to the proper specifications the median would have drained the rainwater effectively, and the soil would not have become so soft and waterlogged. This would have allowed the Plaintiff to drive partially on the median before recovering control and moving the vehicle back onto the highway. The Plaintiff argued she was unable to undertake this course of action because the vehicles wheels dug into the mud, causing the vehicle to rollover before control could be regained, causing a much more serious accident.
In coming to the conclusion that the Province was negligent the Court quoted from the judgement of Meghji v. British Columbia (Ministry of Transportation and Highways), 2014 BCCA 105, a similar case where Acheson Sweeney Foley Sahota successfully argued on behalf of the Plaintiff that the Province was liable for the negligent design of a highway.
The Court held that although the Plaintiff was driving too fast for the conditions, the majority of fault lay with the Province. The Court found that the Province had negligently designed and constructed the median such that the slope was too steep and drained poorly. If the median had been designed to specification the risk of a rollover could have been avoided and the severity of any accident would have been lessened. The Court divided liability 2/3 against the province and 1/3 against the Plaintiff.
Acheson Sweeney Foley Sahota won the ground breaking Meghji case against the Province in 2014, a case that the courts are now relying on when making decisions. If you have been in a car accident, contact us to assist you.