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Court of Appeal on Emergency Vehicle Liability

In Maddex v Sigouin 2014 BCCA 213 the court of appeal addressed the issue of the standard of care of emergency personnel operating vehicles (for an earlier decision see our case summary of Watkins v Dormuth 2014 BCSC 543).

In Maddex, a police officer did a U-turn at an intersection to pursue a vehicle that was speeding in the opposite direction. The defendant was driving behind the police vehicle. In an attempt to avoid rear-ending the police vehicle, the defendant swerved his vehicle to the left. The defendant vehicle collided with the police vehicle as the police vehicle was making its U-turn.

At trial in the supreme court, the judge apportioned fault equally between the two drivers. The judge found that the police vehicle was not entitled to exercise emergency vehicle driving privileges even though he had activated the vehicle’s emergency lights, because he had not activated the sirens before making the U-turn. The court of appeal overturned the decision, finding the defendant driver was wholly at fault for the accident. The court held the police officer did not have to turn on his siren in order to be permitted to exercise emergency vehicle driving privileges. The police officer was entitled to make the U-turn because he was in the lawful execution of duty, he held the reasonable belief that the risk to the public favoured exercising the privileges, and he reasonably believed it was safe to make the U-turn.

* the defendant was refused leave to appeal this court of appeal decision to the Supreme Court of Canada

Case summary by: Chelsea Lott