Rural Stop Signs now Meaningless – Fordham v. Municipality of Dutton-Dunwich

The Honourable Justice Morissette in the recent decision of Fordham et. al. v. Municipality of Dutton-Dunwoch, held the municipality 50% liable for injuries suffered by a plaintiff who failed to stop at a clearly posted and visible Stop sign at a rural intersection, and struck an embankment some distance after the intersection. The reason? Because the intersection was “offset” and further signage should have been there to warn of what lay on the other side. The ruling is, from the municipal defence perspective, extremely troubling. From reading the facts, it appears that had the Plaintiff stopped at the Stop sign, (as the law requires) the accident would not have happened. What more could the municipality have done? A reasonable driver stops at Stop signs. Would a “checkerboard” sign in addition to the Stop sign have made any difference to the driver who already ought to be expected (in the Courts apparent view) to ignore the Stop sign? Justice Morissette appears to have found that it is “reasonable” and not reckless for a driver who is unfamiliar with a road, driving at night in dark conditions, to simply ignore a clearly visible Stop sign without slowing down at all, if they perceive that there is no oncoming cross-traffic.  This is a vast departure from the “rolling stop” that some are accustomed to, where you slow down a bit and look to see if its safe, but don’t quite bring the car to a full halt. A new class of “rural” reasonable and ordinary drivers seems to have been created by this decision, who routinely ignore Stop signs and don’t bother to even do a “rolling stop”….and municipalites are now supposed to anticipate them and do something to try and stop them.  

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