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Court of Appeal reverses ruling in Moncton Intersection Collision

Benoit v. Savoie et al. 2020 NBCA 25

On January 8, 2013, Brian Benoit was driving along Mountain Road in Moncton with passenger and Plaintiff, Karine Savoie. He approached the Mountain Road intersection with West Lane. Mr. Benoit was roughly two car lengths away from the intersection when he noticed the red traffic light and started to brake.  When he reached the stop line, the light changed to green, so he accelerated and continued through the intersection.

At roughly the same time, David Bell-Authier was exiting the Papa John’s Pizza parking lot and had just turned onto West Lane when he saw a green light at the intersection. When he reached the cross walk before the intersection, the light had turned yellow.  Due to snowbanks, Mr. Bell-Authier reported he could not see all the cars approaching the intersection.  He continued into the intersection and his car and Mr. Benoit’s vehicle collided.

The passenger Ms. Savoie brought an action against both Mr. Benoit and Mr. Bell-Authier.  Mr. Benoit moved for summary dismissal of Ms. Savoie’s claim against him.  The Motion judge found that, pursuant to the Motor Vehicle Act, Mr. Benoit had the right-of-way with a green light and Mr. Bell-Authier ought to have stopped at the yellow light.

Notwithstanding that finding, the Motion judge found Mr. Benoit was contributorily negligent for failing to keep a proper lookout when he entered the intersection.  The Motion judge apportioned liability for the accident 15% to Mr. Benoit and 85% to Mr. Bell-Authier.

On appeal, there were two issues submitted by the Appellant:

ISSUE #1: Did the trial judge err in law in his interpretation of s. 119 of the Motor Vehicle Act, RSNB 1973, c. M-17, in light of the evidence of the case?

ISSUE #2: Did the trial judge err in mixed fact and law in his apportionment of liability to the appellant, Mr. Benoit?

The Court of Appeal concluded that Mr. Bell-Authier had breached his duty of care by moving into the intersection on what he clearly knew was a yellow light, when he could and should have stopped. The Appeal panel also found that Mr. Benoit who had the green light and the right-of-way was only required to yield to another vehicle if that vehicle was “lawfully within the intersection.” As correctly found by the Motion judge, Mr. Bell-Authier’s vehicle was not lawfully within the intersection at the time of the collision. The Court of Appeal found that the trial judge had erred in finding that Mr. Benoit had lacked “vigilance” in entering the intersection on a green light. On appeal, liability was re-apportioned, with 100% of responsibility placed onto the Respondent, Mr. Bell-Authier.

You can read Benoit v. Savoie et al. 2020 NBCA 25 in its entirety here.

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