Historical legal research can be intimidating. But rediscovering knowledge lost in old statute volumes can also elevate insight. Take vulnerable road users under the BC Motor Vehicle Act for instance. Notwithstanding that injured pedestrians or cyclists are often impaired in their ability to recall accident details, they carry the same onus to prove negligence as any other plaintiff. Counsel may lament this, but it is and has always been the status quo, right? To propose otherwise would be radical... or would it?
David Hay, QC, is a vocal proponent for reverse onus. Ontario has such a clause, but in BC the notion that a driver must rebut negligence in a claim by a cyclist is strange, even political. As Hay led deeper research, however, he discovered that BC, in fact, was the anomaly in Canada. With the exception of New Brunswick, every other province had a reverse onus provision protecting vulnerable road users at one point. Access to old provincial statutes made this revelation possible.
Since September, HeinOnline has featured a complete collection of annual, sessional and revised statutes for Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Ontario. It’s free and online for BC lawyers through the Lawyers’ Reading Room.