Terrace mother not to blame for car crash that paralyzed her daughter

B.C. Supreme Court ruling opens up path for civil suit against the other driver involved in the 2010 crash near Vanderhoof

A civil B.C. Supreme Court case to decide who was at fault in a 2010 car accident has found that the mother of a local teen left a paraplegic was not to blame.

Madame Justice Neena Sharma in the written decision of her June 9, 2015 judgment cleared driver and former Terrace resident Karen Millard for a Nov. 15, 2010 crash on Hwy16 outside of Vanderhoof that left Millard’s older daughter Rheann Armes in a wheelchair paralyzed from the waist down.

Millard’s younger daughter, Celin, suffered a broken back but there was no permanent damage.

The other driver, Claire Singleton, was found to be completely liable for the accident.

And it now clears the way for a subsequent suit against Singleton for damages.

“…I find that Ms. Millard is not at fault for the accident. Ms. Singleton is 100 per cent liable,” said Sharma in her decision.

“An agreed statement of facts was entered into evidence…The parties agreed that the accident happened on November 15, 2010, at about 7 p.m. on Highway 16 between Prince George and Vanderhoof, near Telachick Road. At the time of the accident it was dark and snow was falling,” reads the decision.

Millard was travelling east on Hwy16 in her four-door sedan equipped with four winter tires with Celin in the front passenger seat, Rheann in the rear passenger seat and with all wearing lap and shoulder belts. They were driving to BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver where Rheann had a long-awaited appointment for her food allergies. Snow began falling near Burns Lake as the trio continued east and road conditions worsened as they left Vanderhoof.

In the meantime, Singleton, in a minivan with only front winter tires, was also on Hwy16, driving west toward Vanderhoof.

The justice’s decision stated that while Millard slowed down to no more than 60 km/h, a reconstruction of the accident determined Singleton did not.

As the vehicles came toward each other, Millard noticed movement in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle on two occasions, just seconds apart. The second incident of headlight movement was only seconds before the collision.

Singleton did not testify at the trial but some of her examination for discovery evidence was read into the record. It confirmed she crossed over into Ms. Millard’s lane just prior to impact, said the decision.

An accident reconstruction expert concluded that Millard was driving at a speed of 50km/h and “prior to losing control of the van, Ms. Singleton was driving in the westbound lane at a speed greater than 90km/h,” the decision continued.

Just seconds after seeing the second instance of headlight movement of the oncoming vehicle, Singleton’s van abruptly came into Millard’s lane.

The van was sliding sideways so that Millard’s car had a head-on collision with the broad side of the van.

“I conclude on a balance of probabilities that the movement of headlights Ms. Millard witnessed was not something a reasonable person would view as a hazard,” wrote Sharma.

“As to slowing down…she concluded she was already going slowly enough in response to seeing the headlight movement. I find her decision reasonable in the circumstances.

Millard said last week that the ruling means her daughters won’t get any money from her insurance.

“I never took it personally, they were suing my insurance,” said Millard about the case. “Rheann really needs it and Celin too.”

“Part of it is I’m bitter. She’s taken no responsibility about any of this,” said Millard about Singleton.

Millard and her daughters will be able to sue Singleton for damages, according to Millard’s lawyer, David Doig.

“That’ll be a separate trial,” he said last week. “The two girls were injured and the mom too, so likely it will be two separate trials.”

The trial date for Millard to seek damages from Singleton is set for March 2016 for two weeks. The daughters will have to file their own separate case.

Millard will be asking for compensation for what she would’ve earned if she hadn’t been injured, Doig explained.