Litigating through the court system can be a lengthy and expensive process. Approaches such as mediation and arbitration can help avoid some of these delays and costs. Another option is through summary judgment, through which a party can ask the court to rule on an issue without having to go through the process of trying the facts of a case. Usually this is because the facts are not in dispute according to one or both parties. While it may be tempting to request summary judgement, the party doing so should ensure the evidence is appropriate for such a motion, otherwise the judge may not approve the request. This was what happened in a recent decision from the New Brunswick Court of Queen’s Bench.
The incident arose on July 6, 2016 with the plaintiff was driving eastbound on Duke Street in Saint John. She had approached the intersection of that street and Sydney Street where a stop sign was placed. The plaintiff did not stop at the intersection and was hit by another vehicle travelling through the intersection on Sydney Street.
The plaintiff alleged that the defendant, the City of Saint John, had failed to trim a tree. She said the failure to do so caused the stop sign to be completely obscured. Her failure to stop, she claimed, was the result of not being able to see the sign.
The defendant’s position was that at all material ties, “the design, inspection and maintenance of the stop sign and trees at the intersection met the appropriate standard of care expected of a municipality.”
An application for summary judgment
The plaintiff requested summary judgment, arguing there is no genuine issue that requires a trial. In beginning its analysis, the court wrote that it shall grant summary judgment if it is satisfied there is no genuine issue requiring a trial.
The court reviewed the plaintiff’s affidavit, which stated “I did not stop before entering the intersection because I did not see the stop sign because a tree had overgrown the stop sign and it was not visible and, as a result, (the other driver) struck me as he proceeded through the intersection.”
The defendant argued there were issues that could not be properly addressed through summary procedures including “the duty of care, standard of care and the apportionment of liability.” The defendant argued there were three material facts in dispute:
- whether the plaintiff saw the stop lines at the intersection;
- whether the plaintiff took steps to proceed cautiously through the intersection, including looking both ways and slowing her vehicle at the intersection; and
- whether the plaintiff hit (the other) vehicle, which was in the intersection first, or whether (the other vehicle) hit the plaintiff’s vehicle.
The defendant also argued there were inaccuracies in the plaintiff’s affidavit, including what vehicle she was driving.
The court agreed that the facts were not presented to it in a way that leaves summary judgment as an appropriate course of action. In addition to questions of fact, the court also found there were questions of law that must be determined at court including the duty of care, if any, owed by the defendant.
At HMC Lawyers we assist clients who have suffered serious and catastrophic injuries as a result of a motor vehicle accident. Our litigators have significant years of experience in the courtroom, and have successfully argued hundreds of cases on behalf of our clients. We are dedicated to getting our clients the best possible result, whether through a negotiated or mediated settlement, or by taking a case all the way to trial. We can be reached online or by phone at 1-800-480-3534.