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Vancouver car dealership found partly to blame for collisions after truck stolen from lot

Keith Fraser

(Carmine Marinelli/Postmedia Network/Files)

(Carmine Marinelli/Postmedia Network/Files)

A Vancouver car dealership has been found partly to blame after one of their vehicles was stolen from the company's lot and was later involved in several serious collisions.

On April 24, 2012, the Dueck Downtown Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership at 888 Terminal Avenue left an unlocked one-ton 2011 GMC Sierra K2500 pickup truck outside a detail bay, with the key in the ignition and the engine running for about 40 minutes before a man named David James Bolton hopped into the vehicle and drove away.

After stealing the vehicle, Bolton drove to Richmond. The dealership helped police locate him through a GPS tracking system built into the truck.

RCMP attempted to arrest Bolton, with an officer pointing his pistol at him and commanding him to stop.

Instead, he backed into a police vehicle and was able to drive away when another police vehicle reversed out of the path of the truck.

Bolton, who was later convicted of several offences related to his dangerous driving, then struck an unmarked police vehicle, with the officer in the vehicle suffering a fractured bone in his neck, a fractured bone in his hand and a leg injury.

A high-speed police pursuit ensued before officers were advised to bring the pursuit to a halt. Several officers turned off their emergency equipment but maintained a pursuit.

At the corner of No. 5 Road and River Road, Bolton, travelling at a high rate of speed with several police vehicles in pursuit, struck a vehicle being driven by a woman with her five-year-old son in the car. The woman suffered serious injuries and her car was a writeoff.

With smoke billowing from the truck, Bolton drove away and managed to avoid a spike belt put down by police before proceeding across the Queensborough Bridge into New Westminster.

He got out of the truck and ran, with police ordering him to stop. When he went into the service bay of a second dealership, he ran toward an SUV in a bid to get into it but was finally stopped by police.

Three civil lawsuits were filed in connection with the incident. Const. Quinn Provost, the cop who was injured, sued Bolton and Dueck. A second suit involved Brandy Brundige, the female driver who was injured, suing Bolton, Dueck and the cops who failed to halt the pursuit as ordered.

The third suit involved the Attorney-General of Canada, the owner of the police vehicles that were damaged in the collisions with Bolton, suing Bolton and Dueck.

In his ruling in the case, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Kelleher said he had no difficulty with the notion that it was reasonably foreseeable that the truck could be stolen given the careless way the vehicle was left at the dealership.

The judge noted that before the collision it was widely reported that there was a risk to the public resulting from stolen vehicles being driven carelessly by thieves.

“Here, I find that it is reasonably foreseeable that a stolen vehicle could cause serious damage and injuries to the police and bystanders in the vicinity of where the police are attempting to recover the stolen vehicle from the thief,” said the judge.

Kelleher said Dueck had a duty to the plaintiffs to secure the vehicle in its lot and had breached this duty and the breach helped cause the injuries and damage.

The judge said there was no doubt that Bolton, who died at the age of 35 in 2016 and was represented by ICBC at trial pursuant to laws regarding uninsured motorists, was most blameworthy and assessed his liability at 70 per cent in the action brought by Brundige and 85 per cent in the actions brought by the Attorney-General and Const. Provost.

He found that the failure of the police to stop the pursuit leading to the collision involving Brundige left them 15 per cent liable in that case.

“Dueck’s negligence created the situation that was highly tempting to any opportunistic would-be thief. Given the character of the dealership location, the size of the truck and the complete lack of care exercised by Dueck staff, I assess Dueck's blameworthiness at 15 per cent in all three actions.”

The amount of the damages to be awarded is expected to be determined in court in November.

kfraser@postmedia.com

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