The BC Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal has determined the family of a Salmon Arm man killed in 2019 while providing assistance at the scene of a highway collision is ineligible to receive survivor benefits.
According to the RCMP, Robert Nash was killed at the scene of a multiple-vehicle collision along the Coquihalla Highway near Larson Hill on May 19, 2019. At approximately 5:30 p.m., a Nissan car collided with a northbound semi. The drivers of both vehicles were exchanging information when Nash stopped to assist and was going to give the Nissan’s driver and passenger a ride when the driver of a Porsche lost control in the rainy weather on wet roads. The Porsche collided with a concrete barrier and then the Nissan. Nash was struck by the Porsche and thrown into the far northbound lane. Another vehicle, a Buick, then struck the Porsche and Nash, who was pronounced dead at the scene.
Nash had been returning home to Salmon Arm after attending a trade show for work in the Lower Mainland.
Heather Nash, Rob’s spouse, submitted an application for workers’ compensation survivor benefits on June 19, 2019. In Sept. 2019, a WorkSafeBC Special Care Services case manager denied the claim, noting Nash’s death “did not arise out of and in the course of his employment.”
In a June 21, 2023 ruling, BC Workers’ Compensation Appeal Tribunal (WCAT) panel vice-chair Herb Morton came to the same conclusion as the Sept. 2019 determination, that Nash’s stopping at the scene of the collision “involved a distinct departure of a personal nature from his employment.”
Morton referred to Rob’s actions as “those of a public spirited citizen”, noting “such actions are held in high esteem by society.” However, Morton and the WCAT determined that in stopping to provide assistance, “Mr. Nash was exposed to risks that he would not have encountered had he simply continued on his journey without stopping…”
“I find that in stopping to provide assistance at the scene of the first accident, Mr. Nash made a distinct departure of a personal nature,” reads the WCAT decision. “While involving the passage of only a short period of time, this stop was not of a nature which was incidental to his employment-related travel. Mr. Nash was not acting to protect the employer’s interests during an emergency… His actions, in stopping to render assistance at the scene of an accident, involved the emergency action of a public spirited citizen.”
Legal action was initiated in November 2019 by the Nash family against other vehicle occupants involved in the May 2019 collision, as well as the B.C. government as represented by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
The province was named among third parties in the legal action, as was VSA Highway Maintenance Ltd., which had a contract with the province for highway maintenance and service in the area of the highway where the collision occurred. According to information included in the WCAT decision, it is alleged the province was “responsible for the design, supervision, and maintenance of the highways,” while VSA had a contract with the Province “to provide highway maintenance and service for the area of the highway where the collision occurred.”
VSA is also named as the applicant behind the WCAT ruling.
The trial is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Vancouver Law Courts on Sept. 18, 2023.
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