Saskatchewan government lawyers are said to be in a Regina courtroom on Wednesday asking a judge to remove the province from a lawsuit brought by families of victims of the fatal Humboldt Broncos bus accident.
However, hockey family lawyers argue that the province should take responsibility for chronic inactivity at the rural intersection where the crash occurred in April 2018.
16 people were killed and 13 more seriously injured when the junior ice hockey team’s bus was hit by a semi-trailer after the driver blew through a stop sign north of Tisdale, Sask.
Inexperienced trucker Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to driving dangerously.
The plaintiffs include player families and assistant coaches
Among several lawsuits filed after the crash is one from the families of four players and a deceased assistant coach. The families are suing Sidhu, the Calgary-based company that employed him, the bus company, and the Saskatchewan government.
In its judicial notice, the government demands to be excluded from the lawsuit as the province has fully comprehensive insurance. This means that a person receives full benefits regardless of who is responsible for a collision, but the right to sue for pain and suffering is limited.
Truck driver Jaskirat Singh Sidhu was sentenced to eight years in prison after pleading guilty to driving dangerously and causing death and injury. (Susan Ormiston / CBC)
“Nobody has a right to sue in relation to bodily harm caused by a motor vehicle as a result of an accident or as a result of bodily harm,” said the statement signed by Assistant Attorney General Michael Morris.
“Section 40.1 [of the Automobile Accident Insurance Act] Any right of action that would otherwise have been available to the plaintiffs expires. “
Regina attorneys who represent families
Regina’s attorneys, Sharon Fox and Kevin Mellor, represent the families of Adam Herold, 16, of Monmartre, Sask .; Jaxon Joseph, 20, of St. Albert, Alta .; Logan Hunter, 18, also from St. Albert; Jacob Leicht, 19, from Humboldt; and Mark Cross, 27, from Strasbourg, Sask.
“It’s an insult to the families,” Fox said in a telephone interview. “I find it insulting that instead of getting involved and doing the right thing, the government is constantly trying to get out of the problem that caused it.
“You have received plenty of warning from experienced people, civil engineers who are trained and know how to build and maintain highways.”
Mellor said the intersection on Highways 35 and 335 was classified as dangerous in 1997 after a family of six from Dawson Creek, BC, including a five-week-old, died after their vehicle was hit by a semi-trailer.
“The problem with the Saskatchewan government is that this really dates back to when the NDP government was in power and they chose not to do anything about it,” he said.
Rumble on the highway
Fox and Mellor said there were recommendations from the RCMP, an investigation by the coroner, and local politicians and engineers at the time calling for the intersection to be changed.
Recommendations included putting rumble strips on the freeway, removing large amounts of trees blocking lines of sight, and improving signage.
A large stop sign was added after the 1997 accident, lawyers said. After the Broncos crashed, rumble strips were added and the trees were cut back slightly.
“Our focus is on the Saskatchewan government for the lines of sight at this intersection and their gross negligence in letting go of this intersection,” said Chris Joseph, whose son died.
“This is going to be a big day for us in court.”