Ava Stellinga and Rhea Lafferty have been found liable in incident (File photo)

Couple who denied driving at time of crash found liable by Kelowna judge

Two pedestrians were hit during incident when Range Rover sped through red light

A couple who both denied being behind the wheel of a 2017 crash that injured two pedestrians have been found liable by a B.C. Supreme Court justice.

The couple claimed that neither one of them was driving a Range Rover that smashed into a pickup truck and then into two people on the sidewalk on Water Street in Kelowna, back on Feb. 4, 2017.

Ava Stellinga, the owner of the Range Rover in question, claimed she had been driving with her boyfriend Rhea Lafferty earlier in the evening to a party at the Delta Grand Hotel on Water Street. After an argument occurred between the two, they said they left the party on separate occasions leaving the Range Rover parked near the hotel.

READ MORE: Two-vehicle crash near Harvey Ave in Kelowna

Lafferty said that he walked south to head to a party by Kelowna General Hospital while Stellinga said she flagged down a cab to head home. Both were living together at the time.

Shortly after, plaintiffs Riley Gillespie and Renne Savaia said they were walking down Water Street in a snowstorm when they saw the Range Rover run a red light and hit a pickup truck. The force of the collision caused the Range Rover to drive up onto the sidewalk striking Gillespie and Savaia.

Metodi Sariyski, the owner of the pickup truck, said he saw a man exit the driver’s door and run across Water Street.

Stellinga said she stumbled upon the crash scene while taking the cab home from the party.

Despite Lafferty’s claims that he was at a house party at the time of the accident, Justice Warren said phone records and testimonials show that Lafferty was, in fact, the driver.

“Mr. Lafferty had the opportunity to take the Range Rover when he left the party. There is nothing to suggest the Range Rover was broken into or hotwired,” said Warren.

“I did not find Mr. Lafferty’s evidence credible. I reject his evidence that he was not the driver.”

At the time Lafferty used the pseudonym Matthew Fortune, although this is not his name.

Justice Warren said Stellinga was vicariously liable in the incident because she was living with Lafferty at the time of the incident.

Justice Warren said Stellinga forfeited her third party liability insurance for the Range Rover when she gave a false testimonial concerning her ICBC claim.

“She gave the impression that she first became aware of the accident when she coincidentally came upon the scene while in a cab on the way home,” said Warren.

“In fact, she knew Mr. Lafferty had taken the Range Rover and gotten into the accident before she got into the cab.”

In Stellinga’s ICBC statement she said she didn’t know who was driving her Range Rover during the time of the incident, however, she allegedly told a police officer at the crash scene she believed Lafferty was driving the vehicle.

Parties now have 60 days to contact the B.C. registry to secure a date for a costs hearing.

To view the full report, you can visit BC Courts website.


@connortrembley
connor.trembley@kelownacapnews.com

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