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Judge roasts Vancouver parents in ruling on Burnaby car-crash lawsuit

'The father in this case was much more responsible and attentive than many Vancouver parents one sees,' BC Supreme Court Justice David Crerar wrote in a ruling on a lawsuit involving a six-year-old girl hit by a car in a Burnaby crosswalk.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge roasted Vancouver parents in a ruling on a Burnaby car-accident lawsuit recently.

The case involved an accident more than nine years ago on Sanders Street, just east of Marlborough Avenue.

On Aug. 27, 2014, at about 7:30 p.m., a six-year-old girl was going to the park across the street with her father, Jing Yun Xiang, and her two-year-old brother, according to the ruling by B.C. Supreme Court Justice David Crerar last week (Nov. 15).

Witnesses agreed the girl was ahead of Xiang and he wasn’t holding her hand as they approached a crosswalk leading to the park.

Xiang had his head down and was focused on helping his toddler with his push bike when the girl suddenly started across the crosswalk and was hit by an eastbound car.

The driver, Siu Kwan Wong, who had been driving the speed limit (50 km/h), slammed on her brakes, honked and veered slightly.

In the end, the contact with the girl was "very light: a bump, not a hit," according to the ruling.

The girl fell down, but stood up on her own power. She did not hit her head, but the knees of her tights were partly torn, and there were superficial scrapes on her left knee and ankle and a bruise on her elbow, according to the ruling.

Her mother, Wen Na Di, sued Wong on her daughter’s behalf, claiming between $50,000 and $60,000 for injuries to her leg and "minor psychological injuries."

Her father, Xiang, sued for "nervous shock," claiming $90,000 to $100,000 in damages.

While Wong acknowledged she had to bear some responsibility for the accident, she argued all three parties were responsible, and the blame should be allocated 20 per cent to the girl, 40 per cent to the father and 40 per cent to her.

Crerar agreed all three were to blame.

Based on the evidence, he concluded it was clear neither the girl nor her father had adequately looked to see if cars were coming before the girl started across the crosswalk.

He concluded Wong had had the right of way but said she breached her duty of care as a driver by failing to keep a proper lookout and take reasonable precautions in response to apparent potential hazards.

"It is reasonably foreseeable that a young child might act unpredictably, even if they lack the right of way," Crerar said.

In the end, he awarded the girl a total of $20,000 in damages, with $10,000 coming from Wong, $5,000 from the girl's father and $5,000 cancelled out because of the girl’s "contributory negligence."

Crerar dismissed Xiang's claim entirely, in part because his mental shock would not have been "reasonably foreseeable" in response to a "light vehicular collision inflicting a minor injury on his child."

But Crerar did acknowledge there was evidence Xiang suffered "significant feelings of guilt and shame from the accident."

"To his credit, his pre-accident distraction arose from the responsible parental attention he paid to his toddler," Crerar said.

That's when the judge took his jab at Vancouver parents.

"The father in this case was much more responsible and attentive than many Vancouver parents one sees, with a coffee in one hand and an iPhone in the other, walking head-down while their children run randomly on streets and sidewalks," he said. "What happened to the father could happen to any parent."

Follow Cornelia Naylor on Twitter @CorNaylor

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