Defendant 50% At Fault For Not Having Headlights On Prior To Sunset

Section 4.01 of the Motor Vehicle Act Regulations states the following with respect to a motorist’s use of headlights:

 

4.01 A person who drives or operates a vehicle on a highway must illuminate the lamps required by this Division

 

(a) from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise, and

(b) at any other time when, due to insufficient light or unfavourable atmospheric conditions, objects on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 150 m.

 

In Schurmann v Hoch, the Plaintiff was found to be at fault for the accident, however the Court under the circumstances also found the Defendant to be 50% at fault for not having his headlights on prior to sunset.

 

[45]           I find that the defendant by failing to have his running lights on was negligent. His actions created an objectively unreasonable risk of harm. The defendant argues that he was in compliance with the statute insofar as it was not necessary to have the lights of his vehicle on as it was not yet sunset. I find however that section 4.01(a) of the Regulations speaks to ideal weather conditions, not conditions as they existed on the afternoon and early dusk of January 10, 2006. Those were cloudy conditions in circumstances where it had just begun to rain. Accordingly this situation was governed by s. 4.01(b) of the Regulations.

 

[46]         In considering the issue of the impact of breach of a statute, Dickson J., as he then was, held at page 225:

 

Breach of statute, where it has an effect upon civil liability, should be considered in the context of the general law of negligence. Negligence and its common law duty of care have become pervasive enough to serve the purpose invoked for the existence of the action for statutory breach: see Canada v. Saskatchewan Wheat Pool, [1983] 1 S.C.R. 205.

 

[47]         It must not be forgotten that the other elements of tortious responsibility equally apply to situations involving statutory breach, i.e. principles of causation and damages. To be relevant at all, the statutory breach must have caused the damage of which the plaintiff complains. Should this be so, the violation of the statute should be evidence of negligence on the part of the defendant (see Saskatchewan Wheat Pool).

 

[48]         The defendant submitted to the court that in order to find negligence one must first find a breach of the statute. I am mindful of the comments of Dickson J. Other elements of tortious responsibility equally apply – it is not necessary to find breach or for that matter compliance with a statute to find actions that created an objectively unreasonable risk of harm…

 

[50] In this case, but for the defendant not having his running or head lights on, the plaintiff would have seen him, and would not have attempted the turn. The defendant thus breached the duty of care he owed to the plaintiff causing the plaintiff the unforeseen risk of injury ─ and he did in fact suffer injury.

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