ICBC loses case against kava-drinking driver

Insurer ordered to pay for replacement of SUV that was totalled when it slammed into Surrey restaurant.

Kava is a South Pacific plant and a tea-like drink is made from the root of the plant. It's described as having a calming effect on those who consume it

A judge has ruled the Insurance Corporation of B.C. (ICBC) must replace the vehicle of a man who crashed into a fast-food restaurant seven years ago.

According to a Sept. 3 B.C. Supreme Court decision, Mohammed Yusuf Venkataya, now 51, was visiting with friends on Oct. 12, 2008. The group of six talked, ate, watched TV and drank kava.

Kava is a South Pacific plant and a tea-like drink is made from the root of the plant. It is Fiji’s national drink and is often consumed at celebrations or ceremonies, though its use is not regulated in Canada, according to the court document.

Venkataya testified he was not feeling well the evening of the get-together and had a few bowls of fish soup, one bowl of kava and a cup of tea. He said he and friends had consumed kava for several decades and that he’d normally have it one or twice a month.

While driving home from his friend’s house after the get-together, Venkataya – a devout Muslim who does not smoke, drink or use any drugs – was about to turn right onto Scott Road from 88 Avenue. But that’s the last thing the driver remembered before being handcuffed and placed on the ground outside a Taco Time restaurant, where his vehicle had crashed into a building.

Two police officers were in the area and witnessed Venkataya’s collision. They said they saw the driver hit a meridian and saw the tires spinning as the engine accelerated on the temporarily stuck SUV. They then saw the car break free, whiz by them, hitting several poles, signs, trees, a light standard and fire hydrant before slamming into the restaurant. The driver suffered minor injuries, but vomited several times after the crash. The car was severely damaged.

The court heard Venkataya had a blood alcohol reading of zero and readily admitted to drinking kava, which HealthLinkBC describes as having a calming effect, “producing brain wave changes similar to changes that occur with calming medicines such as diazepam (Valium, for example).”

At trial, ICBC’s lawyers argued Venkataya was dishonest about how much kava he had consumed.

But Justice Peter Voith deemed Venkataya an “unusually direct” witness and believed his testimony.

ICBC also argued that kava is an intoxicating substance that would have placed Venkataya under the influence at the wheel. There was also suggestion that the driver having taken Benadryl the same day, either alone or in combination, could have rendered him impaired.

The judge, however, said ICBC failed to prove Venkataya was incapable of driving as a result of consuming a drug or intoxicating substance.

The whole of the evidence does not, on a balance of probabilities, satisfy that burden,” Voith said in his written decision.

ICBC was ordered to pay Venkataya the cost to replace his 2006 Nissan Armada, plus court costs.

 

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

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Cloverdale students make puzzles for care home residents

Students from Cloverdale’s Sunrise Ridge delivered gifts to seniors and thank you notes to first responders

UPDATE: Pedestrian dies after being hit by bus in uptown White Rock

Collision occurred July 3 at North Bluff Road and Johnston Road

Intent of killing at centre of Surrey man’s West Kelowna murder trial

B.C. Supreme Court Justice Allison Beames is anticipated to return with her decision in August

PHOTOS: South Surrey tractor project evokes ‘$1-million smile,’ helps connect neighbours

Retired Surrey firefighter Ron Henze began project for friend’s dad to fill time during pandemic

Surrey man facing charges related to child pornography

Elazar Reshef, 52, has worked in the Delta School District

13 new B.C. COVID-19 cases, Langley Lodge outbreak ends

Health care outbreaks down to four, 162 cases active

Greater Vancouver home sales start to tick up, with prices holding steady

Residential sales last month reached 2,443, a 64.5 per cent jump from May

Langley Lodge’s deadly outbreak declared over

Fraser Health and long-term care home administrator confirm Friday declaration

Alberta health minister orders review into response after noose found in hospital in 2016

A piece of rope tied into a noose was found taped to the door of an operating room at the Grande Prairie Hospital in 2016

B.C.’s major rivers surge, sparking flood warnings

A persistent low pressure system over Alberta has led to several days of heavy rain

B.C.’s Indigenous rights law faces 2020 implementation deadline

Pipeline projects carry on as B.C. works on UN goals

Search continues for person seen floating in Coquihalla River in Hope

Rescuers halted the search Thursday night as darkness fell

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

Most Read