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Judge denies costs award in case of pedestrian hit by truck

Driver sought extra legal costs after being sued for hitting man on dark night
A dispute over legal costs was decided in the case of a pedestrian hit by a truck on a rainy night in Langley. (Langley Advance Times files)

A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled that a Langley driver who hit a pedestrian on a dark, rainy night in 2018 was not eligible to receive double costs after winning a lawsuit last year.

The driver's legal team had applied to Justice John Gibb-Carsley for a rare award of double costs against the pedestrian, after Gibb-Carsley ruled in the driver's favour last year.

The case hinged on whether a collision was avoidable or unavoidable, and in 2023 Gibb-Carsley decided that the driver, a local farmer, had no reasonable prospect to avoid hitting the pedestrian, who was walking in the driving lane after 8 p.m. on Oct. 30, 2018. The incident took place in rural Langley on 240 Street.

The victim was wearing dark clothing, had been drinking heavily, and had veered approximately 0.8 metres into the driving lane at the time of the impact. It was raining heavily that night. The driver estimated he was moving at about 50 km/h, and an accident investigator found the impact took place at about 39 km/h.

In the end, Gibb-Carsley found for the driver, and awarded no damages to the plaintiff. He noted that the pedestrian had suffered serious, life-altering injuries in the collision.

The man, 35 at the time of the collision, was left with a traumatic brain injury that has impacted his cognition and his memory.

“His prognosis remains poor to guarded,” wrote Gibb-Carsley, in his original ruling. “He will require ongoing care in the future, including some form of assisted living.”

The driver stopped immediately after the collision, and knew he had hit someone, but couldn't find the pedestrian. Emergency responders eventually located him in a ditch.

The recent hearing focused on legal costs.

In many cases, whichever side loses a civil case is liable to pay some of the legal fees of the winning side. In this case, the driver's lawyers asked the court to impose double normal costs.

They noted that there had been a settlement offer made to the collision victim of $175,000. That was turned down in favour of going to trial.

But Gibb-Carsley said that double costs are typically only awarded in cases where there had been "unreasonable litigation."

Suing, in this case, was not unreasonable even if the outcome of the case was uncertain, he noted.

"While there is a discrepancy between the amount of the offer and the complete dismissal of the claim, in my view, it would be unfair to punish the plaintiff for pursuing his claim, even if there was a risk that he would not succeed," wrote Gibb-Carsley.

The case was, essentially, an "all or nothing" liability case, the judge said in his ruling.

Matthew Claxton

About the Author: Matthew Claxton

Raised in Langley, as a journalist today I focus on local politics, crime and homelessness.
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