HERGOTT: Traffic related crashes and the courtroom

Lawyer Paul Hergott writes about traffic related incidents in his latest column

You can run. You can hide. But if your witness testimony is required to meet the ends of justice, you cannot escape the courtroom.

I’ve issued subpoenas to many witnesses, but had never encountered a witness who evaded service.

My client was in a classic “he said she said” nightmare about what happened in a collision between herself, on a bicycle, and a motorist.

The motorist had given the true version of events to an ICBC adjuster (who has since retired) shortly after the collision. I knew that because of notes of that discussion within the ICBC file materials.

That version of events changed over time. He was elderly, and the shifting story can be explained by his deteriorating memory.

The ICBC file notes were not enough. I needed that former adjuster to attend the trial and tell the court what the motorist had said.

He had agreed to talk to me by telephone. And he impressed me as someone for whom justice was important. I did not expect a difficulty getting him to attend the trial.

But when the process server showed up at his home to serve the subpoena, he ran and hid.

He ran from the back porch to the garage, locked the door and did not answer when the process server called out to him.

Later, he ran back to the house with a ball cap covering his face. The process server could see through a window that he had entered the laundry room, shut off the light and then crawled across the floor to avoid being seen.

What a turkey!

He probably didn’t know that if a witness is evading service, the court will allow service in a different way. I obtained an order allowing service by taping the subpoena to the front door of the residence.

But he didn’t show up to the trial as directed by the subpoena.

He also might not have known that failing to attend as directed by a subpoena can come with consequences. I was left with no alternative but to request a warrant to be issued for his arrest.

The happy ending to this story is that the ICBC defence lawyer agreed to admit the key evidence I needed from that witness so the warrant became unnecessary.

Witnesses are absolutely critical to justice, which is why we have procedures that will go to the extreme of arresting an important witness and bringing them before the court to testify.

That extreme end of the process is rarely necessary in a personal injury trial.

And if an important witness is arrested, spends a bit of time in jail awaiting processing and is hauled into court to give evidence, how helpful to do think that witness might want to be? They might feel inclined to be dishonest in the witness box as a punishment for forcing them to be there.

Dishonesty in the witness box is a criminal offence. An offence that comes with consequences that go far beyond a slap on the wrist.

Next week I will provide examples of sentencing decisions where witnesses have lied under oath.

Missed last week’s column?

Blind hazards in traffic

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Warriors introduce new leadership core, look for bounce back after Friday loss

West Kelowna’s three-game winning streak ended Friday with a 6-3 loss

‘It’s still early’: Flu rates down so far this year at Interior Health

At Kelowna General Hosptial, there have been about 50 confirmed cases

Undermanned Rockets come close in 1st game of road-trip with 3-2 loss to Silvertips

Kelowna continues the three-game stretch Saturday night in Portland

Kelowna’s last video store, Leo’s Video, to remain open despite failed sale

Kelowna’s last video rental store will remain open and under its namesake’s ownership

Two-vehicle collision slows traffic on Highway 97

Harvey is down to two lanes heading east past Dilworth is closed while crews clean up

‘Like an ATM’: World’s first biometric opioid-dispensing machine launches in B.C.

First-of-its-kind dispensing machine unveiled in the Downtown Eastside with hopes of curbing overdose deaths

Canucks extend home win streak to 8 with 4-1 triumph over Sharks

Victory lifts Vancouver into top spot in NHL’s Pacific Division

BC Green Party leader visits northern B.C. pipeline protest site

Adam Olsen calls for better relationship between Canada, British Columbia and First Nations

Priest Camp near Summerland was created in 1845

Agreement formed between Grand Chief Nicola (1793-1859) and Father Giovanni Nobili (1812-1856)

‘Extensive’ work planned at Big Bar landslide ahead of salmon, steelhead migration

Fisheries Minister Bernadette Jordan visited the site of the slide from June

B.C. society calls out conservation officer after dropping off bear cub covered in ice

Ice can be seen in video matted into emaciated bear cub’s fur

Horgan cancels event in northern B.C. due to security concerns, says Fraser Lake mayor

The premier will still be visiting the city, but the location and day will not be made public

B.C. landlord sentenced to two years in jail for torching his own rental property

Wei Li was convicted of intentionally lighting his rental property on fire in October 2017

B.C. town spends $14.14 per resident for snow removal in one month

Costs of snow removal to the Town of Princeton skyrocketed in December.… Continue reading

Most Read