Please click here for the original trial decision.
This liability ruling at trial was reversed by the Court of Appeal, who ruled that the motorist would be 75% to blame, rather than only one third, stating that the trial judge had erred in assessing the Plaintiff’s statutory obligations under the Motor Vehicle Act, which lead to a disproportionate finding on liability. The Court also allowed the appeal in part with respect to an award for future care. The Court of Appeal discussed the duties of driver and pedestrians with respect to parking lot accidents.
 In my respectful opinion, the trial judge erred in law by applying s. 179(2), rather than ss. 180 and 181, to the circumstances of this case. Madam Justice Rowles’ analysis in Loewen v. Bernardi, and the wording of s. 179, when viewed as a whole, describe a code of conduct for vehicles and pedestrians who are approaching or entering a crosswalk. Where, as in this case, there are no crosswalks, ss. 180 and 181 are more appropriate. Section 180 imposes a duty on the pedestrian to yield the right of way to a vehicle when crossing a highway at a point not in a crosswalk. Under the Motor Vehicle Act, a parking lot falls within the definition of “highway”. Mr. Russell was crossing through a parking lot and it is clear that he was not using a crosswalk, therefore s. 180 applies. Section 181 imposes a corresponding duty on a driver “to exercise due care to avoid colliding with a pedestrian on a highway.” The standard of “due care” will obviously be higher in a parking lot than, for example, on a freeway, because one can expect pedestrians to be using that space. This approach is consistent with Bohati v. Jewell (1996) 84 B.C.A.C. 161, another “parking lot” case, where this court relied on what are now ss. 180 and 181 to apportion liability. Sections 180 and 181, rather than s. 179(2), have also been relied upon in lower court decisions involving parking lots: see Gray v. Ellis, 2006 BCSC 1808, and Davidson v. Donnelly,  B.C.J. No. 800 (S.C.).
 Even if Mr. Russell did leave a place of safety, the trial judge erred in his interpretation of s. 179(2) by considering only part of it. This provision has two components: a pedestrian must leave a place of safety and this must be done so suddenly that it is “impracticable for the driver to yield the right of way.” The trial judge’s findings clearly indicate it was not impracticable for Mr. Parks to yield the right of way. He found that Mr. Parks could have stopped and avoided the accident had he been keeping a proper lookout (para. 34). In my view, s. 179(2) contemplates a situation where the pedestrian steps onto a path designated for pedestrians (such as a crosswalk) but in doing so steps immediately into the path of a moving vehicle that could not practicably yield the right of way in time. According to the trial judge’s findings, this does not describe the situation in which Mr. Russell and Mr. Parks found themselves.