A woman who suffered life-altering injuries when she was struck by a train in Langley in 2014 has won a judgment of more than $2 million against Canadian Pacific Rail.
Justice Margo Fleming ruled that the CPR was 60 per cent liable for the crash that flung Jane Huang’s vehicle into a ditch on a rainy afternoon, because of a failure to clear brush that obscured sight lines near the tracks.
On May 8, more than four years ago, Huang’s car crossed the railway tracks at Smith Crescent near Glover Road as she left her new job at the nearby Britco offices.
Though she testified she doesn’t remember the actual collision, Huang told the court she had typically rolled through the stop sign at the tracks, in the mistaken belief that the line was not in use. Her office at Britco didn’t have windows facing the tracks and she hadn’t seen a train there in the few weeks on her new job.
Huang’s car was struck on the passenger side by a freight train, and flung into a nearby ditch.
According to a B.C. Supreme Court judgment released in July, Huang suffered a spinal cord injury and traumatic brain injuries.
She has regained the ability to walk, assisted with a walker, but the woman who acquired an MBA and engineering degree and was working hard to find a new job in Canada now suffers from depression, an inability to work, and a shortened life expectancy.
Huang sued the railway companies seeking up to $4.8 million in compensation.
Justice Margo Fleming ruled that Huang should receive more than $1.37 million for lost earnings, plus more than $350,000 in medical support and modifications to her home and $330,000 in damages for pain and suffering.
Huang had argued that 90 percent of the fault for the crash lay with CPR, which was tasked with maintaining sightlines along its railways. Testimony at the trial suggested the edges of the tracks along Glover Road and a berm around the Britco property were overgrown with blackberry bushes at the time of the crash.
The case also argued that the “storage space” between the tracks and the second stop sign at Smith and Glover Road was too short. Even a normal-sized car couldn’t necessarily fit into the space completely.
The defendants argued that Huang was 80 per cent liable for the crash.
The judge found that while Huang was not entirely blameless, CP Rail was also largely to blame.
“Ms. Huang’s negligence resulted from an unreasonable but honestly held belief the railway tracks had been abandoned, not recklessness or deliberate risk taking,” Justice Fleming wrote. “In contrast the CPR was indifferent in its approach to maintaining adequate sightlines despite being fully aware of the grave risk of collisions.”
This is not the first time train crossings at Glover Road have come under fire.
In 2015, a train hit an ambulance at the Crush Crescent-Glover Road crossing, and the 87-year-old patient later died of her injuries.
A number of changes were made to safety equipment at the crossing, one of the busiest in the Milner area. There are a number of crossings in the Milner area, where farm roads connect across the tracks to Glover.
In 2017, Langley Township budgeted $6.3 million over several years to upgrade rail crossings to new, stricter federal safety rules. There were 30 affected crossings in the Township.