Case Summary: Dirk v Toews, 2019 ABQB 176
In the recent decision of Dirk v Toews, 2019 ABQB 176, the Honourable Madam Justice Janice R. Ashcroft considered the liability of two parties involved in a motorcycle collision near Medicine Hat, Alberta.
The Plaintiff was driving her motorcycle on a secondary road when the Defendant, who was driving his motorcycle ahead of the Plaintiff, did a U-turn crossing in front of her without signaling any intention to do so. In an effort to avoid colliding with the Defendant, the Plaintiff attempted to steer away and brake, causing her motorcycle to fall on its side. The Plaintiff was thrown from her motorcycle which slid on the pavement and then collided with the Defendant’s motorcycle.
The Plaintiff argued that the Defendant was fully at fault for the collision. Furthermore, as the Defendant was convicted under the Traffic Safety Act for performing a U-turn between intersections, the onus was on him to prove that his actions did not cause the collision.
The Defendant argued that the Plaintiff had also contravened the TSA (although she had not been charged or convicted), and that as the ‘Dominant’ driver in this scenario, he was entitled to a common-law presumption that he was not negligent. The Defendant also alleged that the Plaintiff was contributorily negligent in the actions she took upon seeing the Defendant’s U-turn.
Justice Ashcroft undertook 3 different analyses to determine liability and found that the Defendant was negligent in each. Furthermore, Justice Ashcroft found that the Plaintiff’s actions in response to the Defendant unexpectedly crossing her path, while not perfect, were reasonable in the circumstances. Gill v Canadian Pacific Railway,  SCR 654 provides that drivers facing emergency circumstances for which they are not responsible should not be held to standards of perfection. In the result, the Defendant’s actions were the sole cause of the collision and there was no contributory negligence on the part of the Plaintiff.
As a long-time employee and full-time letter carrier for Canada Post with an active social life, this accident significantly impacted the Plaintiff and she received damages reflecting the full scope of her losses.
U-turns can be quite dangerous to perform and are prohibited in several circumstances under the Use of Highway and Rules of the Road Regulation. This case serves as another reminder of the importance of signaling intentions to other drivers, shoulder-checking, and taking other safety measures as necessary if you choose to undertake a similar maneuver.