Category: Independent Witnesses

Court Relies On Testimony Of Independent Witnesses To Rule Against Plaintiff

When there has been a motor vehicle accident, it is often the case in ICBC claims where the Plaintiff and Defendant have conflicting versions of events. When this occurs, it can sometimes be very difficult for a judge to determine what actually happened. The existence of independent witnesses can play a vital role in assisting the Court to arrive at a determination of liability.


In Chang v. Alcuaz, the Plaintiff and the Defendant had differing recollections as to who actually had a green light at the time of the collision. The Court, in relying primarily on the testimony of two independent witnesses, ruled that the Plaintiff was liable.


[28]         The evidence in this case is contradictory and unreliable in many of its details.  It is often difficult, in cases of this kind, to put much reliance on estimates of time and distance given by witnesses in connection with a surprising and traumatic event.  It is very hard to see, for example, how Ms. Currimbhoy simply could have been one or two car lengths behind the plaintiff without being involved in the collision.  There are several other examples of distances, some in metres, some in feet, that simply do not support reliable inferences.  The same is true of some time estimates.  Except to indicate that an event happened too fast to react to it, or to allow time to react, I do not think much can be based on estimates of time, distance or speed.


[29]         Liability comes down to two questions:


(1)  who had the benefit of the light, and

(2)  was the operator of the vehicle with the benefit of the light, nonetheless responsible to some degree, in the circumstances.


[30]         Respecting the first question, there is reason to doubt the plaintiff’s assertion that she had the benefit of a green light as she now asserts.  She was unconscious following the accident and her original statement is at odds with what she presently says.  It would be difficult to accept her version of the event without corroboration.


[31]         The assistance offered by the witness, Ms. Currimbhoy, is highly debatable.  She, alone, among the witnesses, suggests that the event happened in daylight.  On a common sense basis, as I have indicated, she could not be right about her proximity to the plaintiff at the time of the collision.  There is also the difficulty that none of the other witnesses saw any other vehicle proximate to the collision.  There is a further difficulty posed by Mr. Humphrey’s flatly stated observation that he saw the woman who identified herself as a co-worker pull up afterthe collision.  It is not conclusively established that that was the same person, but it is telling that neither Mr. Jantzen, nor Mr. Humphrey, who observed the entire incident, noted any other vehicle near the scene.


[32]         The defendant, Mr. Jantzen and Mr. Humphrey all say firmly that the defendant had the benefit of the green light when he entered the intersection.  Mr. Jantzen’s impression that the defendant may have been “timing” the light is borne out in the defendant’s description of what occurred, in that he says he slowed and then accelerated when he saw the light turn green.


[33]         The evidence from the City of Vancouver respecting the timing of the lights that day at that intersection is also useful.  If the light was turning, an eastbound driver had 3.5 seconds of an amber light before the change.  For 1.5 seconds traffic in all directions is governed by a red light.  This means that by the time the light turns to green, eastbound traffic, at any reasonable speed, has had a warning and ample time to stop.


[34]         The scenario posted by the plaintiff that the light was green or green turning amber as she hit the intersection would imply a red light north and southbound that continued for five seconds after the defendant entered the intersection.  This would preclude any impression of the defendant “timing” the light because he would have entered fully on red.  That is not in accordance with the observation of Mr. Jantzen or of his passenger, Mr. Humphrey.  Both were credible and balanced witnesses who were not caught up in the event themselves except to witness it.  Mr. Jantzen, in particular, was paying specific attention to the light because he had been waiting for it to change.  His view was unobstructed.


[35]         I am satisfied, on the basis of a consideration of all the evidence, that at the time the collision occurred the defendant had the benefit of the green light and that the plaintiff should not have been in the intersection when the collision occurred.

Court Relies On Testimony Of Independent Witness To Rule In Favor Of Defendant

In Hough v. Dyck, there was a rear-end motor vehicle accident. The Plaintiff maintained that he was rear-ended, however the Defendant maintained that the Plaintiff cut him off, and then stopped abruptly. With the assistance of the testimony of an independent witness, the Court accepted the Defendant’s version of events.


[16]           Mr. Dyck’s testimony was internally consistent and he was a careful and coherent witness.   His testimony about how the accident happened and the relative positions of the two vehicles immediately prior to impact was reasonable and was supported by the testimony of an independent witness, Ms. Kristy Maynes.


[17]           Ms. Maynes testified that she witnessed the collision between the vehicles driven by the plaintiff and the defendant.  Ms. Maynes was returning to her home from her workplace along a route with which she was very familiar.  She had also exited onto 176th Street from the TransCanada Highway and was also southbound.   Like Mr. Dyck, she was driving a small black car.  Her attention was drawn to Mr. Hough’s truck, which was immediately in front of her own vehicle as the traffic moved away from the intersection at 96th because, she said, Mr. Hough was driving erratically.  She saw that Mr. Dyck’s black car was in front of Mr. Hough’s truck.  She said she could see Mr. Dyck’s vehicle because Mr. Hough was swerving to the right and the left as the vehicles were going downhill.  She saw Mr. Hough alternately pull onto the right shoulder of the road and then veer left into the northbound lane; and also stop abruptly.  She was sufficiently concerned about what she saw to slow down, in an attempt to open up more space between her vehicle and the pick-up truck.  She testified that she thought the driver of the truck must be intoxicated.


[18]        Ms. Maynes testified that near the bottom of the hill, as traffic was approaching 92nd Avenue, she saw Mr. Hough’s vehicle pull across the double solid centre lines into the northbound lane, pass Mr. Dyck’s vehicle, swerve back into the southbound lane and then slam on its brakes.  She saw the brake lights of Mr. Dyck’s vehicle come on and saw the collision.  She said it was a minor impact, because of the relatively slow speed of travel due to heavy traffic.


[19]        Ms. Maynes’ recollection of events after the accident was less clear.  She testified that both vehicles involved in the collision pulled a little to the side, but that she kept driving, thinking it would be a mistake to get involved given the circumstances.  Ms. Maynes also testified, however, that she was forced to stop her vehicle at the scene of the accident because Mr. Hough stopped his truck in front of her car, got out and stood in front of her car, and started to make a note of her licence number.  She said he said “Did you see that?” and that she replied “It wasn’t me.”  She denied having seen Mr. Dyck’s vehicle make a u-turn and denied having told Mr. Hough that she had seen Mr. Dyck make a u-turn following the accident.


[20]        I believe that Ms. Maynes may be mistaken about the location of the interaction she had with Mr. Hough following the accident.  I consider it most probable that it was at the intersection of 88th or some subsequent intersection that Mr. Hough approached her vehicle.  Ms. Maynes testified that she exited 176th before the intersection with 60th Avenue.


[21]        I find Mr. Dyck to be a credible witness and I accept his testimony.  I consider Mr. Hough’s testimony to be inaccurate and unreliable.   The testimony of Ms. Maynes supports Mr. Dyck’s testimony that Mr. Hough caused the accident by first passing Mr. Dyck’s vehicle when passing was prohibited, as evidenced by a solid double centre line and then abruptly pulling back into Mr. Dyck’s lane and equally abruptly slamming on his brakes, for no good reason, and when it was foreseeable that a collision would result.  In doing so, he was negligent, and his negligence was the sole cause of the accident.


[22]        I am not persuaded that anything done or omitted to be done by Mr. Dyck caused or contributed to the accident.  He was cut off when Mr. Hough pulled back into his lane of travel and then stopped abruptly.