Injured driver loses lawsuit against city

Crash on Clayburn Road in Abbotsford in 2011

A driver who claimed he crashed in Abbotsford due to the city’s negligence in maintaining Clayburn Road has lost his lawsuit. Google Street View image.

A driver who claimed he crashed in Abbotsford due to the city’s negligence in maintaining Clayburn Road has lost his lawsuit. Google Street View image.

A driver who claimed he crashed in Abbotsford due to the city’s negligence in maintaining Clayburn Road has lost his lawsuit.

Ralph Plett, 27, sued the City of Abbotsford for damages related to the crash on Jan. 16, 2011.

Plett was the sole occupant of a 1992 Honda Civic that was travelling east in the 34300 block of Clayburn Road – east of Highway 11 – at about 12:30 p.m. when his car hit an area of accumulated water, went off the road and slammed into a power pole.

His car then plowed into an adjacent drainage ditch.

Plett suffered serious injures in the crash, including a skull fracture, a partially torn-off ear, and fractures to his spine, clavicle and upper arm.

Among Plett’s allegations in his notice of civil claim were that the city was negligent because it: failed to warn the public about flooded road conditions, failed to maintain Clayburn Road in a “safe condition” and keep it in a “reasonable state of repair,” did not maintain adequate warning signs, and did not respond in a timely manner to complaints of rising water on the road.

However, Justice Christopher Hinkson in his written ruling on July 26 referred to witness testimony that, although it had been raining heavily in the days prior and there was some water on the road, there was no rain at the time of the crash and visibility was good.

Hinkson also said that there had been flooding on Clayburn Road before Jan. 16, but it was not due to a failure on the part of the city to inspect for defects or to maintain the road.

“The flooding was due to the topography in the area, and the fact that water accumulation in the area could not be accommodated by the natural or managed drainage in the area,” Hinkson wrote.

The judge noted that yellow reflective signs were posted in the area, warning motorists that the road is subject to flooding.

He concluded that the city’s system to monitor water levels on Matsqui Prairie and the condition of its roads and signage are “the result of reasonable policy decisions by the city” based on its budget.

This system involves city employees attending to a road issue if a call is received from the public, police or another city staffer.

Hinkson said no call about Clayburn Road was made on the day of Plett’s crash.

The judge also referred to expert testimony that estimated Plett would have been travelling at a speed of between 128 and 137 km/hr as he hit the water. The speed limit in the area of the crash is 60 km/hr.

He also stated that Plett was not wearing a seatbelt at the the time of the accident, resulting in him striking the right side of his head on the passenger door when his car hit the power pole.

Hinkson ruled in the city’s favour and dismissed Plett’s claim. “There was not causal link between the plaintiff’s harms and any failures respecting roadside hazards, warnings, road closures, signage or any failure to erect or maintain barriers to prevent road use,” he wrote.