A Regina court heard arguments Friday about the best way to deal with 11 lawsuits stemming from the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash and what a delay would mean for grieving parents.
Sixteen people were killed and 13 injured in April, 2018, when an inexperienced truck driver went through a stop sign and into the path of the junior hockey team’s bus at a rural intersection near Tisdale, Sask.
A lawyer asking for approval of a class-action lawsuit said the representatives for nine surviving Broncos players were okay with not bringing their cases forward until after the April, 2022, certification hearing.
John Rice of Vancouver asked the Court of Queen’s Bench to delay one lawsuit filed shortly after the crash representing five families whose children died.
Their lawyer says they don’t want to wait, particularly on the proposed class action, which has no guarantee of being certified and could be appealed, prolonging the process by several years.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” Kevin Mellor told court Friday.
He said not only would forcing a delay inflict psychological harm on the parents, they would be burdened with more legal costs, beyond the thousands of dollars they have already spent on the case.
Mr. Rice acknowledged the suffering these parents have faced. But, he said court needs to consider what’s fair for all Broncos victims – also affected by court delays – and the risks that come with different lawsuits proceeding at different times about the same event.
Because all the lawsuits share similarities, what happens in one affects others, he argued, and the “least-worst option” is for everyone to wait until the certification hearing.
After first expressing he wanted to be delicate, Mr. Rice said: “Those that were killed won’t be coming back.
“I would ask, my Lord, when you’re contemplating the comparative duress of these litigants, please juxtapose the duress of those who had children killed … with the enduring, living harms – physical and psychological – of the … surviving players,” Mr. Rice said.
He also suggested the lawsuit from the five families would not be heard in the next year or so, and the delay would be temporary.
“The closure that they so deservedly want will not happen in any event before the application for certification is heard.”
The class action so far includes the families of 24-year-old Dayna Brons, the team’s athletic therapist from Lake Lenore, Sask., who died in hospital, and injured goalie Jacob Wassermann, 21, from Humboldt, Sask. It names as defendants the Saskatchewan government, the truck driver and the Calgary-based company that employed him.
Mr. Rice said other families have since joined, including the families of Broncos coach Darcy Haugan and bus driver Glen Doerksen.
The class action is also open to families who billeted players, first responders and members of the general public traumatized by the crash scene.
The early lawsuit represents the families of five who died in the collision: assistant coach Mark Cross, 27, from Strasbourg, Sask.; Jaxon Joseph, 20, of St. Albert, Alta.; Logan Hunter, 18, of St. Albert, Alta.; Jacob Leicht, 19, of Humboldt, Sask.; and Adam Herold, 16, of Monmartre, Sask.
“I lost my best friend on April 6, 2018,” reads an affidavit filed by Adam’s father, Russ Herold.
“I farmed with him. I hunted with him. I snowmobiled with him. I taught hockey to him and I coached him. My family would spend summer and winter seasons together at our family cabin as a family. Adam spent hours on the water wakeboarding.
“Now, nobody goes.”
In court filings, Mr. Mellor also said a delay could create problems because the truck driver, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu, could be deported to India after he is released from prison and before any civil trial.
In court, Mr. Rice said it’s unlikely Mr. Sidhu would be deported before the end of the year and the class action also wants to hear from him.
With files from Bill Graveland in Calgary.
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