Decision due today in Supreme Court on whether to delay trial start date
A Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court justice has decided that expert opinion is relevant to participation in a class-action lawsuit concerning moose-vehicle collisions.
A moose is shown running in front of a car as it crosses the road in Gros Morne National Park in this 2007 photo. A class-action lawsuit against the provincial government by victims of moose-vehicle accidents has scored the first point in the struggle for the plaintiffs to receive compensation. The judge ruled expert opinion is relevant to participation in the suit.
— TC Media file photo
The ruling delivered late Tuesday afternoon means plaintiff participation can cover a 10-year period instead of a two-year one as was requested by the defendant in the case, the provincial government.
St. John’s lawyer Ches Crosbie argued that plaintiffs could not have been aware of the true value of their claims against the province without consulting a wildlife collision expert. He also claimed it was not feasible for an individual to pursue legal action.
Government lawyer Rolf Pritchard argued in court there was no continuing cause of action to warrant the 10-year time frame and that the cause of injury in each case was a specific event.
Justice Valerie Marshall in the end sided with Crosbie. She wrote in her decision that “an expert’s opinion was required by each individual member of the Class in order for the limitation period in negligence to commence running.”
She added that it cannot be determined at this point whether all of the plaintiffs did exercise “reasonable diligence in obtaining the expert’s opinion.” Marshall said that issue is a matter for the trial judge to rule on.
In a news release issued by Ches Crosbie Barristers, plaintiff Ben Bellows said the decision was “a great weight off my mind.” Rendered a quadriplegic following a moose-vehicle collision in 2003, Bellow was among those who would have become ineligible for the class-action lawsuit depending on Marshall’s decision.
The release said the plaintiffs want compensation for injuries, fences erected in problem areas along highways in the province and an overall reduction in moose-vehicle collisions.
According to Crosbie, a decision in favour of government’s arguement would have removed all claimants involved in accidents before Jan. 5, 2009, two years prior to the date Crosbie originally filed the lawsuit.
Among those who have been asked to testify in the trial is Premier Kathy Dunderdale. She was served with a subpoena last month.
The trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 13, 2014, but government has requested a delay. Marshall is expected to making a ruling today on that matter.