R. v. Soni (J.), 2016 ABCA 231

Judge:Berger, Slatter and Veldhuis, JJ.A.
Court:Court of Appeal (Alberta)
Case Date:June 09, 2016
Jurisdiction:Alberta
Citations:2016 ABCA 231;[2016] A.R. TBEd. AU.008
 
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R. v. Soni (J.), [2016] A.R. TBEd. AU.008

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Temp. Cite: [2016] A.R. TBEd. AU.008

Her Majesty the Queen (respondent) v. Jayant Soni (appellant)

(1503-0153-A; 2016 ABCA 231)

Indexed As: R. v. Soni (J.)

Alberta Court of Appeal

Berger, Slatter and Veldhuis, JJ.A.

August 2, 2016.

Summary:

The accused was convicted of dangerous driving causing death. The accused appealed, arguing that the trial judge improperly admitted or used expert evidence, the trial judge incorrectly stated that test for dangerous driving or incorrectly applied the test, and the trial judge erred in determining that there was proof of factual and legal causation of the death of the victim.

The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.

Criminal Law - Topic 1391.2

Motor vehicles - Dangerous driving - Causing death or bodily harm - The accused was driving a Mercedes which was proceeding parallel to a Lexus being driven by a co-accused when the two vehicles hit a third vehicle, killing the driver - The trial judge concluded that the accused's driving had a number of dangerous components: he was driving significantly above the legal speed limit; that high speed travel was over a significant distance and duration; and he was travelling in close proximity to another vehicle that was itself travelling in a dangerous manner, even faster than the Mercedes - The trial judge concluded that together that represented a marked departure from the standard of a reasonable person in the circumstances - The accused appealed his conviction for dangerous driving causing death, arguing that the trial judge essentially made him responsible for the way the co-accused was driving - The Alberta Court of Appeal rejected that argument, holding that it was based on excising one phrase out of a long judgment - Read as a whole the trial judge correctly stated the legal test and found the necessary marked departure from a combination of all the factors - See paragraphs 33 to 39.

Criminal Law - Topic 1391.2

Motor vehicles - Dangerous driving - Causing death or bodily harm - The accused was driving a Mercedes which was proceeding parallel to a Lexus being driven by a co-accused when the two vehicles hit a third vehicle, an Oldsmobile, killing the driver - The accused appealed his conviction for dangerous driving causing death, arguing that there were likely two collisions at the intersection: first the Lexus hit the Oldsmobile, followed in an instant by the Mercedes hitting it - The accused argued that it was impossible to tell which impact killed the driver of the Oldsmobile, so that causation could not be proven in a legal or factual sense - The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal - The court noted that the case law provided that the accused's conduct need only be a "significant contributing cause" of death outside the de minimis range - It was open to the trial judge to conclude that the accused's conduct was a contributing cause to the death, and that factually and legally the accused should be held responsible - See paragraphs 40 to 42.

Evidence - Topic 7002

Opinion evidence - Expert evidence - General - Acceptance, rejection and weight to be given to expert opinion - The accused was convicted of dangerous driving causing death - The accused appealed, arguing that the trial judge improperly admitted or used expert evidence (i.e., evidence of a police detective who was an accident deconstructionist) - At trial, defence conceded admissibility, but had concerns about weight - The trial judge agreed that the Detective's evidence lacked the objectivity and impartiality expected of an expert witness because of his involvement with the case - Because of those concerns the weight to be placed on his evidence was diminished - However, there was other evidence supportive of his opinion, therefore the trial judge rejected the defence's argument that the Detective's evidence could be afforded no weight - The accused appealed - The Alberta Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal - The court noted that the admissibility of the expert evidence was clearly conceded and that defence counsel's objections went to weight - That concession could not be retracted on appeal - Here, the trial judge was alive to the limited weight to be given to an expert opinion where there was a lack of objectivity, and she specifically looked for evidence that would corroborate that opinion - There was nothing on the record to suggest that the expert's objectivity was so lacking that his evidence should have been ruled completely inadmissible - See paragraphs 9 to 23.

Counsel:

M.J. McGuire, for the respondent;

N.J. Whitling, for the appellant.

This appeal was heard on June 9, 2016, before Berger, Slatter and Veldhuis, JJ.A., of the Alberta Court of Appeal. The following memorandum of judgment was filed in Edmonton, Alberta, on August 2, 2016, including the following opinions:

Slatter and Veldhuis, JJ.A. - see paragraphs 1 to 43;

Berger, J.A., concurring in the result - see paragraphs 44 to 54.

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