CASE LAW - Lemma v Wong

BC Courts Coat of ArmsThis is the case of Lemma v Wong. Messele Lemma attempted to cross Commercial Drive at East 11 Avenue in Vancouver. He stepped off the curb slightly outside the unmarked crosswalk into the path of a pickup truck driven by Gary Rolfe. Mr. Rolfe stopped suddenly to avoid colliding with Mr. Lemma. Mr. Lemma continued to cross Commercial Drive, now in the crosswalk, where he was struck by a car driven by Lindsey Kwan who had changed lanes to the left and passed the Rolfe vehicle.

Counsel for Ms. Kwan took the position that Mr. Lemma was 100% at fault for the collision because he started to cross the street outside of the crosswalk area.

Mr. Justice Taylor found the following:

  • Mr. Lemma decided to cross Commercial Drive because he saw an acquaintance on the other side and was intending to meet with her;
  • Mr. Lemma was walking quickly when he stepped onto Commercial Drive and was walking with “loping strides”, but not running;
  • Mr. Lemma did not wait for Mr. Rolfe to stop his truck before he entered the Curbside Lane; he proceeded onto the road before Mr. Rolfe was stopped which forced Mr. Rolfe to brake quickly;
  • Mr. Lemma did have an arm out towards the street when he stepped onto the road but did not wait for a signal from Mr. Rolfe that he could cross, or ever receive one;
  • Mr. Lemma stepped onto Commercial Drive south of the bushes but north of the Crosswalk by a few feet;
  • Mr. Lemma proceeded on a diagonal line from where he stepped onto Commercial Drive in the Curbside Lane and, by the time he entered the Centre Lane, he was walking in the Crosswalk;
  • Mr. Lemma put his arm out into the Centre Lane and did look down that lane (albeit briefly) before he entered the Centre Lane. Ms. Kwan saw him looking in her direction;
  • Mr. Lemma did not see Ms. Kwan’s oncoming vehicle before he stepped into the Centre Lane; and
  • When Mr. Lemma was hit by Ms. Kwan’s car he was walking in the Crosswalk.

After explaining the applicable sections of the Motor Vehicle Act, he found Ms. Kwan 75% responsible and Mr. Lemma 25% responsible for the collision.

Of note are three concepts outlined in the judgment:

  1. Because the crosswalk is unmarked, Mr. Lemma has some margin of error in deciding where to cross.
  2. A pedestrian does not have to be in the crosswalk to trigger the duty of a driver not to pass another vehicle that is slowing or stopped for that pedestrian.
  3. Mr. Lemma had a duty not to walk in front of Ms. Kwan, regardless of the fact that he was in the crosswalk, in a manner that would make it impractical for her to stop for him.

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