Baker v Poucette, 2016 ABQB 557 (CanLII) – Human Factors Case Brief

Baker v Poucette, 2016 ABQB 557 (CanLII)

Date: 2016-10-04


Mr. Bradley Baker died when the motorcycle he was driving collided into the rear-end of a half-ton truck driven by the Defendant, Mr. Newton Poucette. The collision occurred on November 5, 2010, around 3 PM on a sunny day, and the pavement was bare and dry. Mr. Baker was riding his sister-in-law’s touring motorcycle which he had borrowed.

Mr. Baker was driving eastbound on Highway 1A in Alberta. About 1.5 kilometres east of the exit to Ghost Lake Village he became aware Mr. Poucette’s truck in his path. Mr. Baker appeared to take action to avoid the collision but still collided with Mr. Poucette’s truck.

Mr. Poucette had been turning left to go to Stoney Medicine Lodge located to the north of the highway. The RCMP conducted an accident investigation and charged Mr. Poucette with violating the rules of road and Mr. Poucette plead guilty to the charge.

One of the four witnesses to the collision, a Mr. Heymerdinguer, stated that Mr. Poucette attempted to make the left turn from the right shoulder

The Defendant, Mr. Poucette, was found 75% liable for the collision and Mr. Baker was found 25% liable.

Plaintiff’s Human Factors Position

Dr. Donald Kline presented human factors evidence on the threshold rate of expansion and the rate of change in the size of an object in a person’s visual field. Dr. Kline opined that given the conditions of the collision, Mr. Baker would have recognized a stopped or slow moving vehicle between 96 and 136 meters ahead.

Defendant’s Human Factors Position

Dr. Jeff Caird provided human factors testimony on behalf of the Defendant. It appears that Dr. Caird agreed with the detection distances estimated by Dr. Kline.

From the Reasons for Judgment, it is not apparent where, if any, the disagreement was between testimony of the two human factors experts.

Judge’s Rationale

The judge stated that the human factors testimony was important evidence since it helped place where the drivers may have been at the time of detecting the collision danger caused by a stopped or slow moving vehicle. The judge agreed with Dr. Kline that the witness who placed Mr. Poucette on the shoulder, Mr. Heymerdinguer, would have been further away from the collision and therefore was probably not in a position to view properly identify where Mr. Poucette’s truck was laterally on the road before commencing the turn. The judge therefore decided that Mr. Poucette had not attempted to make the left turn from the right shoulder.

The judge decided that the collision was caused by two factors: a wide and inordinately slow left turn, unaccompanied by a left-hand signal by Mr. Poucette; and excessive speed by Mr. Baker. The judge concluded that Mr. Baker first tried to pass Mr. Poucette’s truck on the left, and then when Mr. Baker saw that Mr. Poucette was turning left, Mr. Baker attempted to pass on the right when the collision occurred.