A woman who struck and injured a 10-year-old pedestrian in Abbotsford in 2006 has been found fully liable for the incident, despite her defence that the girl’s mother failed to teach her daughter how to cross roads safely.
The lawyer for defendant Elly Heuchert, 75 at the time of the accident, argued that the mother, Christina Taggart, should be held partially responsible for her daughter Kayla’s injuries, and that the girl’s negligence contributed to the collision.
Justice Neill Brown disagreed, ruling Kayla had the right of way at the time of the collision, and Heuchert should have been more vigilant.
The decision in the civil suit was made July 12 in B.C. Supreme Court in Chilliwack.
The accident took place Sept. 26, 2006, when Kayla was leaving Centennial Park Elementary, located on Gladwin Road across from Sevenoaks Shopping Centre.
Christina had arrived at the school to pick up her daughter, but Kayla asked to walk home with two friends.
At the time, there was an unmarked crosswalk – meaning it is not indicated with signs or lights – in front of the school.
According to Brown’s written reasons for judgment, Kayla and two friends had stopped at the crosswalk, waiting to cross from the west side. Three southbound vehicles stopped in the curb lane, and the trio began walking with Kayla in the lead.
Meanwhile, Heuchert, in a Mercedes SUV, was driving in the other southbound lane and struck Kayla, knocking her to the ground.
Witnesses indicated Heuchert was driving at about the posted speed limit of 30 km/hr.
Heuchert testified that she did not see the vehicles stopping to her right and that Kayla jogged ahead of the other girls, making the collision “virtually unavoidable.”
Her lawyer also argued that Kayla’s mom was partly to blame because she allowed Kayla to use an unmarked crossing – instead of sending her to the marked crossing at Hillcrest Avenue to the north – and failed to adequately supervise the crossing.
But Brown said Heuchert should have noticed the vehicles slowing to her right, and she breached her duty as a driver when she failed to do so.
“I find the defendant was focused on what was occurring directly in front of her at the expense of what was occurring to her right and had failed to notice traffic slowing in the curb lane …”
The judge acknowledged the “emotional toll” the accident has taken on Heuchert.
“I encourage her to appreciate that anyone can fall short of what is expected of them at some point. These findings in no way reflect on her good character.”