Supreme Court of British Columbia Makes Liability Determination On Accident Occurring In Washington

When people visiting British Columbia from other Provinces, or from outside of Canada, are involved in a motor vehicle accident in British Columbia, they often wonder where legal proceedings need to be commenced. Should it be in British Columbia where the accident occurred, or should it be the jurisdiction in which they live ? Almost invariably, the matter will be subject to the jurisdiction of the British Columbia courts. Conversely, if a resident of British Columbia is hurt in a motor vehicle accident outside of British Columbia, the matter will most likely not be subject to the jurisdiction of the British Columbia courts, but rather to the jurisdiction where the accident occurred. The ultimate question of jurisdiction is to be determined by the relevant provisions of the Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act.

In Wheeler v. Lee, the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident near Bellingham, Washington. The Plaintiff was a passenger in a vehicle that was struck by a trailer that came loose from the trailer hitch, causing the vehicle to strike a concrete barrier. The Court had previously granted an Order severing quantum (amount of claim) from liability. In the present application, the Plaintiff brought a summary trial application pursuant to Rule 9-7 of the Supreme Court of British Columbia Rules for judgment against the Defendant with respect to liability. Although both the Plaintiff and the Defendant lived in Victoria, the accident occurred in another jurisdiction. The Court granted the application of the Plaintiff, holding the Defendant liable for the accident.

[2]           I have determined that I can make the necessary findings of fact to render a decision under Rule 7. That is because there is essentially no dispute as to what occurred.


[3]           The plaintiff was a passenger in the defendant’s vehicle, a Ford Excursion. The parties were driving south on Interstate 5, a divided highway, a few kilometres south of Bellingham, Washington.


[4]           There is no issue of jurisdiction. Both parties live in the city of Victoria.


[33]        I am satisfied that the defendant’s negligence was a contributing cause of the accident.  There is no suggestion that the plaintiff had any role in causing the accident.


[34]        The evidence establishes that the defendant’s decision to affix a large box to the rear of the accident and to load it with equipment decreased the tongue weight of the trailer and reduced the ratio to an unsafe extent.  The defendant ought reasonably to have known that.

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