Vernon car wash fender bender ends in stalemate | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Vernon car wash fender bender ends in stalemate

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April 13, 2021 - 11:00 AM

A soapy windshield and conflicting stories were both factors in why the B.C. small claims courts failed to find anyone liable after a fender bender at a Vernon car wash left two drivers and the business owner all pointing the finger of blame at each other.

The incident took place at Skogies car wash in Vernon in April 2020 and caused more than $2,000 damage to Jason Meeds's vehicle. 

Meeds then launched a Civil Resolution Tribunal against June Ferguson, who was driving the vehicle in front of him, Skogies car wash, and Insurance Corporation of B.C.

According to the April 6 Civil Resolution Tribunal decision, all three parties involved acknowledge that Meeds's vehicle hit something while inside the automatic car wash and that the incident was not his fault.

But precisely what happened and whose fault it is was a much harder question to answer.

According to the decision, Ferguson's vehicle was in front of Meeds's as the cars passed through the carwash. Vehicles have to be in neutral as tracks on the floor move multiple vehicles past brushes and blow dryers. A sign at the entrance reads, "Enter At Your Own Risk."

Meeds says that while inside the car wash, the tracks pushed his vehicle into Ferguson’s vehicle because she applied her brakes. Meeds says this happened multiple times and damaged his vehicle.

Ferguson denied that she applied her brakes and that part way through the car wash "everything stopped" and she heard "bangs" from the back of her vehicle that sounded like something was running into it.

Ferguson’s husband, who was in the passenger seat, said that a washing roller wrapped around the vehicle trailer hitch which caused their vehicle to stop for a few seconds. He said Meeds's vehicle hit the roller three times and there was no direct contact between the two vehicles.

Ferguson says roller brush material was found on her trailer hitch after her car left the car wash.

The couple lay the blame with Skogies, saying the car wash malfunctioned and caused the accident. Meeds also blamed Skogies saying the car wash should have detected that Ferguson’s vehicle had stopped and not pushed his vehicle into hers.

However, the Tribunal poked holes in all of their stories.

"Meeds does not say whether Ms. Ferguson’s brake lights came on, or how else he knew she had applied her brakes," the Tribunal said. "Meeds admits that his soapy windshield made it difficult to see."

The Tribunal found that because it was difficult to see the incident likely occurred in a different area of the car wash, which dismissed much of Meeds's evidence.

The Tribunal also disputed evidence Ferguson’s husband gave to ICBC.

"He said that Ms. Ferguson did not brake, although he did not explain how he knew that," the decision says. "(Ferguson's husband's) evidence does not explain how he knew Mr. Meeds hit a roller between the vehicles rather than Ms. Ferguson’s vehicle directly, and whether (he) saw this from his position in the front passenger seat.”

Although Skogies did not submit a response in the case, which would ordinarily see it automatically lose the case, in an unusual move the Tribunal ruled that early evidence that Skogies gave to ICBC would suffice.

The Tribunal then made its own decision on what happened.

"I find it likely that Ms. Ferguson’s forward progress was impeded by interference from a car wash brush," the Tribunal ruled.

However, the Tribunal ruled it wasn’t the car wash’s fault.

“I find that Mr. Meeds has failed to prove that there was a reasonably foreseeable risk of car wash entanglement with Ms. Ferguson’s vehicle that Skogies should have recognized, or that Skogies failed to stop the car wash reasonably quickly during the incident,” the Tribunal ruled.

With that, the Tribunal found neither Ferguson nor Skogies negligent in the case and dismissed Meeds's claim.

"I find that Mr. Meeds should not have expected there would be no possibility of an incident in the car wash, and that he accepted such risks by entering after undisputedly viewing the 'Enter At Your Own Risk' sign.”

— This story was originally published on April 11, 2021.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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