An RCMP officer is 80 per cent to blame for a high-speed collision that destroyed two vehicles, a B.C. judge has concluded.
In July 2014, Const. Chad Gorman was attending a call at an elementary school in Langley when he was notified of a 911 call that came from a man claiming he was being chased by someone with a gun.
Gorman activated the lights and siren on his police cruiser and proceeded westbound along Fraser Highway at speeds of over 140 km/h. Another police cruiser was responding at the same time and was ahead of Gorman.
Around the same time, a Calgary family were driving in their van towards an antique car museum located near the Fraser Highway.
Shiraz Meghji stopped the van at the intersection of 268 Street and Fraser Highway before proceeding north into the intersection.
As the van crossed the westbound lane of the highway, it was struck at a high speed by the police cruiser, destroying both vehicles.
In his ruling on the accident, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Bruce Butler said that “somewhat miraculously” no one was killed.
The officer and the four family members in the van suffered some injuries but all were able to walk away from the scene.
The issue at trial was whether one or both of the drivers was at fault, and if both were at fault how liability should be apportioned.
The RCMP defendants argued that Meghji should be held solely responsible, stressing that the officer was the “dominant” driver and Meghji was required to yield the right-of-way when entering a highway and yield to an emergency vehicle.
Meghji argued that Const. Gorman should be found wholly or substantially at fault, claiming that he had complied with the law by yielding when he first arrived at the stop sign and then proceeded with caution.
He claimed that the officer was driving at a reckless speed and did not make a proper risk assessment in accordance with his training.
The judge found that when Meghji started forward into the intersection, the police cruiser was still far away from the intersection, too far to conclude that it was an immediate hazard.
“Any hazard that existed when Mr. Meghji entered the intersection was created by the high speed of the Gorman car, not by a failure to pay attention,” said the judge.
Butler noted that an officer driving an emergency response vehicle is required to balance the risk of harm to the public and must slow his vehicle to a speed consistent with reasonable care when approaching or entering an intersection.
He said he had “no hesitation” in concluding that Gorman breached the standard of care of a reasonable police officer in travelling on Fraser Highway at 145 km/h on a weekday afternoon through a commercial/residential zone at speeds close to 90 km/h over the speed limit.
At the same time, Meghji’s decision to drive through the intersection in the manner he did was negligent since he knew that one emergency vehicle had already passed at high speed and was aware of the possibility that there could be a second emergency vehicle headed in the same direction, said the judge.
Gorman was found 80 per cent at fault but was not a party to the proceedings. The minister of public safety and solicitor general of B.C. will be liable for Gorman’s negligence in the course of performing his duties, the judge said. Meghji was found 20 per cent to blame. Damages will be awarded at a later date.
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