Driving Offences

Dangerous Driving Causing Death Verdict for Man Who Suffered a Seizure While Behind the Wheel

Written on behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Fakhreddin Noureddin (“Noureddin”) was found guilty of dangerous driving causing death and was found not guilty of the more serious charge of criminal negligence causing death following a seizure he experienced while driving that ended in a fatality.

THE FATAL CAR ACCIDENT

In the late afternoon of February 14, 2019, Noureddin’s Toyota Camry was witnessed swerving abruptly and entering an oncoming lane on Goulbourn Forced Road in Kanata where it proceeded to strike and kill Hendrikas Welten (“Welten”), 59-years old, while he was jogging on the road’s shoulder.

The roadways were clear and there was no precipitation at the time of the accident.  Welton was wearing a dark track suit with reflective piping while running in the fading daylight hours.

According to the evidence given at his trial, Noureddin experienced a dyscognitive epileptic seizure while he was behind the wheel.   This type of condition does not include convulsions, but it does impair the individual’s awareness or consciousness.  The seizure usually lasts for approximately two to four minutes and is often followed by a period of confusion.

Noureddin had suffered a similar dyscognitive episode many years ago, which led to medical intervention for his condition.  He had been effectively treated for epilepsy with medication for many years.  In June of 2018, his doctor changed his medication.

During a routine appointment with his neurologist on October 31, 2018, Noureddin had been advised not to operate a motor vehicle for three months and only to resume driving once he had clearance from one of his doctors.

In making his ruling in this case, Justice Jean Legault of the Ontario Court of Justice stated:

Based on my findings, Mr. Noureddin would have appreciated the risk associated with suddenly losing the physical ability to operate a motor vehicle as a result of the epilepsy. …
It is self-evident that the risk caused by a dyscognitive epileptic seizure and loss of awareness while operating a motor vehicle can be significant, if not catastrophic, as it was in this case. …

Justice Legault found that Noureddin was aware of the reason for his doctor’s orders and was aware of the risk of suffering an epileptic seizure while driving.  Justice Legault reasoned:

His decision to drive contrary to his doctor’s instruction, coupled with his understanding of the risk and potential result of suffering an epileptic seizure while driving, constituted a marked departure from the conduct of a reasonable person in the circumstances. …
He failed to demonstrate the expected degree of thought and attention required for the activity of driving.  More specifically, he attempted the inherently dangerous activity of driving voluntarily, without accounting for his disorder and the risk he created to other motorists and pedestrians on the roadway at that specific time.

In considering the more serious charge of criminal negligence causing death, which requires a “higher threshold” to reach a guilty finding, Justice Legault did not find that Noureddin’s behaviour on the day in question amounted to a “reckless disregard for the lives and safety of others”.  Justice Legault considered the following in coming to this decision:

  • Noureddin monitored his epilepsy as directed;
  • His condition had improved on new medication;
  • There was a lack of any “significant manifestation of his epilepsy for many years”;
  • That he was past his three-month driving prohibition;
  • That he took his disorder seriously and had regular contact with his doctor; and
  • That his neurologist did not revoke his driving privileges with the Ministry of Transportation.

CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE CAUSING DEATH VS. DANGEROUS DRIVING CAUSING DEATH

The offence of dangerous driving is a serious criminal offence found under section 320.13 of the Criminal Code of Canada.  The only requirement to be charged with this offence is that a driver operated a motor vehicle in a manner that was dangerous to the public.

If convicted of dangerous driving causing death, the driver faces the possibility of imprisonment for life and a minimum punishment for a first offence of a fine of $1,000, for a second offence imprisonment for 30 days and for each subsequent offence imprisonment for a term of 120 days.

The offence of criminal negligence causing death is an offence found under sections 219 and 220 of the Criminal Code of Canada.  An individual will be found guilty of criminal negligence if he/she did anything or omitted to do anything within his/her duty or shows a wanton or reckless disregard for the lives or safety of others.  It must be proven that a reasonable person acting in the situation would know that the action would jeopardize the life or physical integrity of the person.

If convicted of criminal negligence causing death, the driver is guilty of an indictable offence and the maximum sentence is imprisonment for life.

If convicted of either or these offences, the driver’s license will automatically be suspended for one-year if it is the first conviction, and the length of time increases for subsequent convictions.

If you have been charged with a driving offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.