B.C. woman gets new trial against husband in crash case

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the Clements's case will go back to trial. Photo: Wikipedia
The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the Clements’s case will go back to trial. Photo: Wikipedia

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled a B.C. woman suing her husband after a crash will get a new trial.

According to the CBC’s coverage, John Clements crashed his motorcycle in wet weather with wife Joan aboard in 2004; she received serious brain injuries in the crash. Court documents say the bike was overloaded, and the couple was traveling in the rain. The crash came after the rear tire picked up a nail, resulting in a flat at the same time Clements was picking up speed to pass another motorist.

Although the puncture contributed to the crash, Clements’s wife argued his driving, and the overloaded bike, were both key factors to the crash as well (never mind the fact that her weight would have contributed to that overloading). Without his alleged negligence, her lawyers argued, there would have been no crash – this is called the “but for” argument.

The matter has been back and forth in the courts since; in a 2009 trial, a Vancouver judge ruled in her favour, saying the crash couldn’t be scientifically re-constructed, but that his actions had had a material contribution. In 2010, B.C.’s Court of Appeal overturned that ruling, saying the “but for” argument had not been proven, and that her material contribution argument didn’t apply.

From there it went to the Supreme Court, where judges agreed the material contribution argument didn’t apply, but also that the “but for” argument didn’t have to be scientifically proven. So now, it’s going back to trial.

While you might think this is a lot of legal mumbo-jumbo, this is a case worth keeping an eye on – not only could it have sobering implications for motorcyclists, it could have far-reaching effects on our legal system we can’t even anticipate now.


  1. Please be aware that the suit against the husband is without malice. In fact, I’ll bet he supports her efforts. The way the insurance plan works in BC, one has to sue the individual in order to collect funds from ICBC. The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia are on the hook if she wins and are no doubt providing the legal representation for the husband. Just thought I’d clarify that.

    • Right, that’s the rumour, anyway. I couldn’t find anything that confirmed that story, but it’s what I’d heard. All around, it’s a sad case, really.

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