Class action targets moose accidents

Barb
Barb Sweet
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Victims claim province negligent in managing moose population

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St. John’s lawyer Ches Crosbie has filed a class-action lawsuit against the provincial government over moose-vehicle accidents.

Crosbie was to be joined by the Save Our People Action Committee this morning at a news conference in St. John’s to announce the legal action.

Moose were introduced to the province about 100 years ago. The class action alleges wildlife management practices have allowed the moose population to reach between 120,000 and 200,000.

There are 700-800 moose-vehicle accidents a year.

Moose stand six- to seven-feet tall, with males weighing more than 1,000 pounds, and females, 800 pounds.

Crosbie notes in his statement of claim that life on the island of Newfoundland was wiped out in the last glaciation and when plant and animal species developed 18,000 years ago, moose were not among them.

“In the early 1900s, the defendant decided to bring moose to the island for the purpose of releasing them and populating the island,” reads the statement of claim, adding there is no natural predator other than black bears, who prey on young calves.

The class action alleges the province’s highway system has been constructed and maintained without adequate consideration to moose-vehicle safety issues.

“In collisions at highway speeds (roughly 70 to 110 km/h), a car’s bumper and front grill typically will break the moose’s legs, causing the body of the moose to clear the car’s hood and deliver the bulk of the body weight into the windshield, crushing the windshield, front roof support beams and anyone in the front seat.”

The claim states certain steps could have been taken, such as fencing, controlling vegetation along roadsides, increased moose hunting and a spring cull.

It also blames the province for not properly documenting the number and location of moose accidents and moose warnings from motorists, and for the lack of a consistent awareness program.

Hugh George, 59, and Ben Bellows, 54, are the representative plaintiffs in the class action.

Bellows’ accident occurred 10 kilometres west of Clarenville on July 10, 2003, as he was returning home to Mount Moriah after bringing his daughter to St. John’s.

Bellows, according to the statement of claim, was travelling 92 kilometres per hour when he struck the moose.

He ended up a quadriplegic, and neither he nor his wife, Helen, have been able to work since the accident due to the care required for Bellows, previously a school board maintenance worker.

It’s been five months since Hugh George’s life was forever altered, and he remains in the Miller Centre with hopes of finally going home the end of the month.

On Aug. 5, George left work in St. John’s for home in Dildo. A foreman/carpenter with Newfoundland and Labrador Housing, he was working on his own new home in Dildo and went to his mother’s house in Dunville to get a chopsaw and bench.

It was dusky and George drove below speed limit, as he had years of experience on the Argentia Access Road, which is well travelled by moose.

“I made it as far as the rock cut on the Argentia Access Road and that’s when I met the moose. I ended up hitting a guard rail as well,” he told the Telegram in an interview at his bedside.

After that, he doesn’t remember much of what happened.

His wife, Sandra, got a call that night to go directly to the Health Sciences Centre.

“He was on life support for nine days,” said Sandra. Even afterwards, he didn’t wake from an induced coma for days after he should have.

She first walked into ICU to see George in a neck brace, hooked up to tubes and covered in blood, which turned out to be the moose’s.

“I had never seen anything like it. I don’t want to see it anymore,” Sandra said.

“When it happened to him, and I stood there in ICU all those days, looking at him ,you wonder is he going to wake up, is he going to die because of an animal?”

George said he couldn’t even walk across the room after waking up.

He said his left field of vision is gone, and while rehabilitative services is helping his left leg, his left arm remains mostly immobile. It’s unlikely he will return to his previous duties.

Prior to his accident, George was getting ready to floor up his house, for which had the concrete poured. Men from his church — Trinity Bay South Salvation Army — did the work for him when they saw his condition.

The couple have had to make renovations to the home they’d been living in to accommodate George’s injuries.

Sandra George said she wrote Environment Minister Charlene Johnson about her husband’s accident, pleading for more attention on the dangers of moose. Not long afterwards, she heard the news that a 22-year old man was killed on the Tilton Barrens near New Harbour after striking a moose.

“Spray something on the Highway as a deterrent for them coming out to feed,” Hugh George said.

“The ditches are not being cleaned out like years ago.”

George had a close call more than 15 years ago, hitting a moose with a small truck on the passenger side — he figures if someone was with him, they would have been killed.

“We live in a part of the world where it gets dark early and it stays dark for a long time. To me, the moose have more rights than we have,” Sandra said.

“You get on the highway on any given morning at 6:30  — hundreds and hundreds of cars travelling in here to work. Same thing in the evening.”

Sandra continues to drive back and forth from Dildo  — she’d taken time off from her doctor’s office job in St. John’s, but has been tending to her husband. She said she can’t let fear bother her.

She had a close call two days after George’s accident, driving home to Dildo from St. John’s with friends.

“A moose comes along and we went right under his chin. I said ‘His drool is on the roof,’” she recalls.

“This is preventable. Don’t dance around it and say ‘Don’t drive at night.’ That’s foolishness. You got to drive at night.”

The class action must go through a certification process at the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador in order to proceed.

 

bsweet@thetelegram.com

Organizations: People Action Committee, Miller Centre, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Health Sciences Centre Trinity Bay South Salvation Army Supreme Court

Geographic location: Dildo, Island of Newfoundland, Argentia Access Road ICU Clarenville Mount Moriah Dunville Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Topcat fr Bay of Islands
    January 12, 2011 - 09:12

    In School zones the speed limit is 30 kmh. This low speed has been established so drivers will have a chance to react to a child suddenly darting out into the road and into the path of an uncoming vehicle. The reason that the speed limit is not faster is because the average driver would not be able to react in time to avoid the child. Given these facts, why would anyone be so naive to think they could drive at a higher speed and be able to avoid a fast moving and unpredictable animal like a moose?

  • Al
    January 12, 2011 - 06:17

    I notice the some posters here have restored my faith that there are still some people around with some "common sense". The government has done its job with regard to moose crossings and otherwise. There are numerous signs on the highways and plenty of radio/TV notices about the moose on highways. I myself have had two collisions and several near misses. My wife had one collision. Other than considerable damage done to the vehecles involved we came out with no injuries. The reason? We drive at speeds that give us a chance to react positively when driving at night. I know this because the other traffic is passing us like we were stopped. There is a simple solution. Slow down.

    • Suzanne Kilfoy
      August 11, 2012 - 22:40

      I know if my husband and not been driving at a reduced speed the evening we hit the moose on the TCH we would have been killed. As it is, I now have a homecareworker to assist me due to exacerbated mobility issues and walk with a cane and a walker.

  • MD B
    January 12, 2011 - 00:20

    Here's a simple way to reduce many of the collisions, at least on the West Coast of Newfoundland, between drivers and moose. Reduce some unnecessary highway driving by using the Stephenville Airport, which is located on the edge of the ocean, with no trees, nor moose running, along one of the biggest runways in Eastern Canada ( can land the space shuttle) -instead of forcing travelers- to use, the Deer Lake airport, which is located in the middle of the forest. Travelers with major airlines, must use the airport in Deer Lake, in the woods, which then forces travelers to drive along a moose filled highway surrounded by dense trees and brush, for hours to reach their destination; which on a dark, foggy night, is a nightmare to drive. I have heard, many travelers from around the world comment on how forcing passengers to use only the Deer Lake and not, Stephenville Airport by major airlines, needs a change; no one wants to travel, and fly to their destination, only to be forced to drive along a dangerous highway, moose filled highway, especially on a dark, foggy, night.

  • Duffy
    January 11, 2011 - 21:57

    Ummmm.... lets see. A lawyer gets millions for Medical Victims then takes a third because he sent a few letters and attended a few meetings - they get very little as victims. Soooo maybe I can do it again on someone elses back ? Is this about money and is the real cause for probably 75% Speed and Inattention. I see many victims hiting a Moose said they were doing 60k on the TCH.Yea Right! The real accidents deserve compensation when a Moose truly jumps out and the government should do more.............but a class-action lawsuit - get real.

  • Delphine
    January 11, 2011 - 21:12

    when we killed a moose with our van it wasn't the speed.we were on the TCH between Corner brook and deer lake doing about 60 slowed down because there was 3 big moose crossing the highway,but what we didn't see was a smaller one jump of the bank right into the van. moose died and we had $10,000. damaged to the van plus my husband had his chest and arm hurt..

  • Lorri
    January 11, 2011 - 20:31

    Myself and my daughter struck a moose in November of 2009. It was 9am on a perfectly clear day, I was not speeding and was paying attention to the road as I always do. The moose came running up over the embankment with no warning, it was just there in front of me, I had no choice but to hit the moose head on. I was driving a big one tonne truck at the time and when I hit the moose I swirved into a van coming in the opposite direction, luckily we all walked away with no live threatening injuries. The point I would like to make is this, sometimes it doesn 't matter the conditions or how fast you are going sometimes it's out of your control. I have been all over this country and have seen the fencing up and would like to know if moose accident rates have decreased since these have been erected. If they have wouldn't be worth it if it could save some lives, that's my point, but the government hasn't even considered it. Why don't they use some of "our" taxpayers dollars to try to save lives and see if this would be effective.

  • Its about time
    January 11, 2011 - 20:04

    Perhaps people should look at the big picture, I think its about time someone sued! I'm not sure this is entirely about money. This maybe the only way to get the province to take action. It is a fact reported by the government of Canada that a skull can fracture in a collision as little as 7 - 10km/h. I'm sure slowing down would save lives but so would fencing. As stated in the article, moose are not native to Newfoundland, its only predator being the black bear. There were approx 120,000 moose in NL in 2004 and between 6,000-10,000 Black Bears, perhaps we just need more bears? I applaud these men for doing what should have been done long ago, Someone needs to make the Province and Government accountable, and money talks. Perhaps a threat of a law suit will open there eyes to the real issue --- fencing. It works for Alberta and other provinces why not let it work for NL!

  • JH
    January 11, 2011 - 19:58

    Speeding drivers are a real concern - does anyone stick to 100 kph? Not many, so far as I have experienced. The first step is to address this problem. And why not sue the federal government for the over-abundance of seals?

  • MD B
    January 11, 2011 - 17:13

    Here's a simple way to reduce many of the collisions, at least on the West coast of Newfoundland between drivers and moose. Use the Stephenville airport, which is located along the edge of the ocean, with no trees, nor moose running, along one of the the biggest runways in Eastern Canada -instead of forcing travelers- to use, the Deer Lake airport which is surrounded by forest. Due to mis-management, Government favorites, Airline bribes of summer homes along a lake , or, for whatever the reason; travelers are forced to use the airport in Deer Lake, an airport in the middle of nowhere, like a little speck in the woods. The area, is surrounded by forest; which forces travelers to drive along a moose filled highway for hours to reach their destination. I have heard, many travelers from around the world comment on how forcing passengers to use only Deer Lake and not Stephenville Airport by major airlines, needs to be changed; maybe someone could, sue the Government for a lack of common sense?

  • Dan Donnelly
    January 11, 2011 - 17:08

    Ches I have mice in my house and maybe a norway rat or two. I think myself and my dog have picked up a skin problem from them. When you are finished with the moose can you sue the government to make them get rid of the mice

  • Graham
    January 11, 2011 - 16:48

    Judging from the comments this lawsuit is ridiculous, and any intelligent person would see that, but it will succeed. Why? , because it will be decided by the NL justice system which has proven time and time again that it can't make the right decision.

  • hunter
    January 11, 2011 - 16:32

    Why don't Chess get a law suite going for the people who loss control of a vehicle and hit a telephone pole, im sure Newfoundland Power didn't do and risk assesment when they stuck them up. If people would just slow down, and PAY ATTENTION a little more on the highways alot of the accidents could be avoided. Cutting the moose population drastically is not the answer, nor is trying to sue the government, thats just going to cost everybody in Newfoundland a pile of money when they jack up the taxes to cover for it. The moose are here to stay, and personally i think its a good thing, you just think about the amount of money pumped into the economy when moose season roles around, people spend alot of $$ hunting these animals, I am sure there are people who even depend on it for a living. Even if you cut the population in half there will still be accidents. If fences were used along the highly populated areas it would make a great diffrence. Just my 2 cent worth !!!

  • Topcat fr Bay of Islands
    January 11, 2011 - 15:33

    The government is responsible, to a certain extent, for the number of moose accidents on our highways but it is not for the reason Mr Crosbie gives. The problem is with our government's failure to ensure their highway laws are not being enforced properly. The law states that the posted speed limit is the highest speed you can drive under ideal driving conditions. When was the last time (if in fact there was ever an incident at all) that a police officer handed out a ticket for driving too fast for the conditions when the driver was driving less than the posted speed limit? Sadly, the only ones who truly know they were driving too fast for the conditions are people like the two gentlemen in the story. They would have been able to avoid the moose had they been driving slower. The evidence suggests both were driving too fast for the conditions. It's a tough lesson to learn. Hopefully our police officers will be encouraged to step up enforcement of a law that is already in place - it could save lives.

  • Kay
    January 11, 2011 - 14:47

    #1 I agree with Bullwinkle #2 I think it is absolutely ridiculous that there is even a lawsuit against the government due to moose. Its not the governments fault that the moose wondered into the road, victims of moose accidents want someone to blame for their life altering experience. Mind you I am sincerely sorry for these families but suing the government is not the answer! PROCEED WITH CAUTION LOWER YOUR SPEED DRIVE ON THE HIGHWAY AT NIGHT ONLY WHEN ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.

  • Michele
    January 11, 2011 - 14:36

    I think this is an excellent move. The government has been given ample time to curb the moose population yet for whatever reason they have allowed the moose popoulation to sky rocket. The moose have no natural predators in this province. The population needs to be cut in half to make it safer for all of us to travel the roads.

    • frank but
      January 12, 2011 - 09:39

      Black Bears, Lynks and even eagles will kill young moose.

  • Brad
    January 11, 2011 - 12:56

    No sense in writing Charlene Johnson, she can't answer your questions, and she isn't in the helping business, and rarely answers letters. The only moose she ever saw was bullwinkle. She probably thinks the moose are eating the caribou, and that's why they are declining and the moose are increasing, the woman is incredibly intelligent :).

  • Robert
    January 11, 2011 - 12:39

    I don't know is suing the gov't is the way to go but we need to get their attention. Something has to be done to reduce the number of moose/vehicle collisions. Aside from any previous rhetoric listed here, this is my story. I was travelling with my wife and two children while driving into Gander to catch a flight. At about 9:30 pm one early August/98 evening and doing about 80 kph, a moose jumped up from the ditch on the left, took three steps and the van hit it dead center. The moose crushed the hood of the Dodge Carvan, drove the windshield back onto the driver and front passenger's faces, crushed the roof and rolled off the back onto the road. Minor cuts and bruises were the result but it could have been much worse. Paying attention and not driving fast!!!

  • Too much TV
    January 11, 2011 - 12:30

    Sounds like ole Chessy is watching too much daytime American broadcasting

  • Bullwinkle
    January 11, 2011 - 12:21

    My peeps are also intending a class action lawsuit against the province for the negligent deaths of so many of our kind. To prevent anymore of our deaths we demand that all highway traffic cease between sunset and sunrise. That will guarantee that there are no more of these accidents. You bipeds are arrogant, thinking the environment must be changed to suit your habits, maybe you need to adapt to the environment.

    • Kay
      January 11, 2011 - 13:36

      I agree Bullwinkle. I sympathize with the family but a class action lawsuit is ridiculous. People are the biggest road hazard out there. These days everyone sues for everything...it's maddening.

  • Dana Phillips
    January 11, 2011 - 12:13

    I think the provincial/federal governments should spend some tax payers $ to construct some wildlife fencing in area's that are prone for accidents, similiar to that in Banff/ lake louise national parks in Alberta. They keep bears, moose, elk, deer,etc off the highways.

  • Pat
    January 11, 2011 - 12:05

    We are getting worse than the Americans...sue..sue ...sue. Why not sue Mother Nature for the rain that causes hydroplaning!!! Sorry to all who have been involved in a moose accident, but this is out of range!!

  • Jim
    January 11, 2011 - 11:56

    The ultimate question here is who wins in the end... let me venture to say CHE$ CRO$BIE.. and no the dollar signs are not typos. I travel this province extensively. I have encountered moose on numerous occasions. They saw me they freaked and jumped all crazy like. I kept my cool and either swerved or slowed to avoid. 100% success rate. I see the government doing excessive roadside clearing all along the highways, for this I am thankful in seeing my tax dollars being used wisely. In those places where the shoulders do not allow for adequate clearing I slow down and PROCEED WITH CAUTION, just as the signs dictate. I hope that Mr CRO$BIE don't mind throwing a few of my tax dollars that he earns from this back into the coffers to allow for continued success in the ungoing clearing and the development of seasonal jobs for our residents.

  • Mark Easton
    January 11, 2011 - 11:37

    In a perfect world I would be able to do something to stop this from happening. What a misuse of our taxes. A moose doesn’t know what it’s doing when it walks out on a road but we do. Most or all of these incidents could have been prevented if people would just realize that they are in Newfoundland where for every 5 people there is 1 moose! Good odds for coming into contact with one. This is all a money grab brought on by the money gobbler.

  • you make me sad to be a newfie
    January 11, 2011 - 11:19

    Ches Crosbie you made me ashamed to be a newfie!! Get with the program and stop blaming animals for your own problems

  • C. Hefford
    January 11, 2011 - 11:14

    I think that most people who have made comments here have never experienced having a Moose run out of a ditch or the brush along the highway because if you did you would have most likely hit it regardless if you were driving 70KM or 110KM night or day because it happens so fast you don't have time to properly react. So from experience, speed is not always the problem, simply put, the problem is the MOOSE and accept it at that and goverment should be held responsible.

    • Mark Easton
      January 11, 2011 - 12:07

      It makes a great difference what speed your going! You reaction time is comprised, the distance needed to stop is increased and your ability to observe your surroundings is limited. Think before you comment on something.

    • David
      January 11, 2011 - 12:11

      From someone who has had too much experience with moose, caribou and even a bear on the highway, speed makes a big difference. You drive for the conditions of the road, that includes the road side. The next time you're driving, just ask yourself if you could stop from or avoid hitting something that jumped out onto the road. If the answer is no then you're going too fast. You are suppose to be in control of the vehicle at all times.

  • Alan
    January 11, 2011 - 10:47

    Strikes me that this lawsuit would be the equivalent of me suing the State of Texas because I wasn't watching and stepped on a rattlesnake and got bit. Snake just being snake. It does what it does. Moose is moose. Just does what it does. Gotta watch and careful.

  • Trevor
    January 11, 2011 - 09:46

    A law suit is not the answer BUT in the day we live in, it is about the only thing to get people's attention. We have a problem with moose on the island. Drive across once & you are likely to have at least 1 close call with a moose. Last August between Stephenville & Corner Brook 1 charged out in front of a caravan of vehicles causing all of us to break hard...praise the Lord that we all missed it. Then between Grand Falls & Springdale a week later we encountered 2 moose about 5 miles apart just standing on the side of the road waiting for their chance to cross...I am very thankful that they didn't. That's 3 moose in 1 week & there are thousands who could tell a similar story... We need to take steps to decrease the number without eliminating them & increase visibility on the roads. The hunt needs to be increased, the brush needs to be cut back from the highway to increase visibility & we could decrease the speed limits province wide from dusk til dawn. I'm not a huge fan of reducing the speed limits BUT it might help in some cases.

  • Kathie
    January 11, 2011 - 09:40

    Now this is ambulance chasing at its worst...Sorry you were hurt but please take responsibility..driving fast and not paying attention to the roads..

  • bill
    January 11, 2011 - 09:15

    My heart goes out to the people who have been affected by the moose accidents, but years ago we never heard of the amount of moose accidents that we hear of today and my reasons for that are that we never had the amount of people traveling the highway years ago at the speeds that they do travel at today risking their lives in bad weather and with a good majority at high speeds. I came in from another town a couple of nights ago and had my speed at 80 kms /hour due to driving conditions, snow and slushy roads and I had people flying by me. As I said earlier I think that most of our accidents are caused by people driving too fast and not being able to respond in time. I am sure there are people who have accidents with moose and are traveling at highway speeds but these people are in the minority. Can we sue the government for 18 wheeler accidents because they took away the trains and increased the number of 18 wheelers on the road. Can we sue the government for a car accident that involved 2 cars as one of the cars swerved to avoid running over a rabbit and then struck the other car head on . After all rabbits were brought into the province from outside also. How much of the moose environment is being replaced by housing projects and paper mills. I have seen an area that I have hunted for years with plentiful moose now gone due to area being cleared for the pulpwood and that moose in that area now are concentrated in to an area that still has some woods left. There are many factors that are causing these accidents and eliminating the moose is not going to solve it all. If we had no moose just think how fast people would be driving then .

  • Donna
    January 11, 2011 - 09:09

    It's obvious that the moose are here to stay. Therefore, if drivers do not want to slow down while driving in hazardous weather conditions or in the dark, the government should implement a mandatory speed reduction for these conditions. Chances for a hefty fine and loss of precious drivers' points might help rectify the situation and save lives; it surely won't do any harm to try it,,,,,and it wouldn't take much out the government's purse.

  • nasty nate
    January 11, 2011 - 09:05

    Sorry Penney, I do not drink either. So I guess your link to that error would be a mistake as well. I drive to the conditions, and have never been ticketed or hit anything. Guess I am perfect after all. Under these circumstances, why should I be forced to pay for those that can not control the vehicle they operate? They are the ones who should not be permitted on our high ways, not be permitted to take my taxes and increase everyones insurance rates for poor skills or training behind the wheel.

  • Huh
    January 11, 2011 - 08:55

    'The claim states certain steps could have been taken, such as fencing, controlling vegetation along roadsides, increased moose hunting and a spring cull.' Nice of Ches to ignore the most obvious, least expensive and effective means to prevent accidents - reduce speed. Everybody knows the risks of driving the highways at night because of moose but we don't want to be inconvenienced by slowing down.

  • Aub
    January 11, 2011 - 08:38

    I do a fair bit of travelling on the TCH and Bonavista hwy and did not see one moose on the road in 2010-saw a few off the road-but I did see a lot of mad drivers who kill and injure more people than moose do. Drivers are supposed to have more sense than moose have.

  • teamplayer
    January 11, 2011 - 07:49

    We need to be somewhat accountable as well. I know the moose are plentiful, but if you don't have 100% visibility then you need to slow way down. Just because the speed limit is 100km/h doesn't mean that it's okay to drive that speed or even close to it when it's dark, raining, foggy, or any other weather that decreases visibility. I've been passed on the highway in the dark and rain and fog by idiots doing 120km/h. That being said, the province does need to do something about the moose population, but not sure if a law suit is the answer.

  • John Taylor-Smith
    January 11, 2011 - 07:44

    I truly sympathize with those who have suffered greatly because of collisions with moose on NL highways. However, eliminating the moose is not a satisfactory solution. National Parks across North America have abundant wildlife species roaming their highways and byways and the danger of hitting large animals (eg) deer, elk, bison, black bears and yes even the omnipresent moose is real and constant. Where would we be and what would it say about us as a people if our only solution was to kill-to-extinction every wildlife species that caused us a problem?

  • Joe
    January 11, 2011 - 07:43

    If this class action survives a certification motion, I will be truly shocked.

  • nasty nate
    January 11, 2011 - 07:02

    Government needs to lock these criminal lawyers up. Getting a little fed up paying for stupid people. If they can not drive, revoke the privilege to drive. What about the thousands that drive our high ways each year and do NOT hit anything? Why must we pay for the STUPID people who just can not drive?

    • Penney Rowe
      January 11, 2011 - 08:33

      Well, Nate, I suppose you are perfect then? I guess should you ever crash into anything in a vehicle, we will all know that you were drunk.

    • Taxpayer
      January 11, 2011 - 08:56

      Penny not all people are like you, they do not have a sense of entitlement. These people take responsibility for their accidents.