Class-action lawyer hopes new premier will want to avoid embarrassing trial
Two sides set to argue in court this spring about whether the provincial government owes anything to those who have been injured in moose-vehicle accidents will not be forced to engage in mediation.
© ‚ÄĒ Photo by Andrew Robinson/ The Telegram
Lawyers Jessica Dellow and Ches Crosbie prepare for the arrival of Justice Valerie Marshall in Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Friday in St. John‚Äôs.
Newfoundland and Labrador Supreme Court Justice Valerie Marshall dismissed St. John‚Äôs lawyer Ches Crosbie‚Äôs application to have the government take part in mediation talks in the presence of a third party.
Marshall concluded that in order for mediation to get the desired result for plaintiffs in the class-action lawsuit against the government, lawyers for the province would need to make concessions they have not shown a willingness to make.
Marshall ruled it would not be useful to order mediation between the two parties, as the likelihood of success would be negligible.
Crosbie is attempting to prove in court that the government was negligent in failing to take measures to prevent accidents over a 10-year period involving motorists and moose on provincial highways.
Crosbie argued Friday that mandatory mediation was an issue of access to justice. He said it would give the two sides the opportunity to explore matters with a third party to help clarify issues.
But government lawyer Peter Ralph argued mediation would not make efficient use of legal resources. He also noted the government was not attempting to put barriers in place to frustrate the legal process.
While an appeal has been filed concerning an earlier decision to allow a 10-year limitation period instead of two years, as the government had hoped for, Ralph noted a stay to halt legal proceedings was not part of the appeal.
The two-week trial is scheduled to begin April 1.
Speaking to reporters following Marshall‚Äôs decision, Crosbie said his clients were disappointed.
He also suggested it would be in the best interest of the province‚Äôs new premier, Tom Marshall (no relation to Justice Marshall), to avoid letting the class-action lawsuit go to trial.
‚ÄúThis government is going to be facing weeks of trial in which one embarrassing revelation after another is going to come to light,‚ÄĚ he said, ‚Äúrisking derailing Mr. Marshall‚Äôs policy agenda over the next few months. He needs to think long and hard whether he wants to risk that and wants to risk the embarrassment of losing the trial as well.‚ÄĚ
Marshall was sworn in as premier Friday morning at Government House in St. John‚Äôs, replacing Kathy Dunderdale, who announced her plans to resign on Wednesday.
Dunderdale was subpoenaed last year as part of the class-action lawsuit. Asked Friday if her resignation affects whether or not she will be asked to testify in the trial, Crosbie said that will depend on the contents of disclosure he is still waiting to receive from the government.
‚ÄúWe could make a decision on that if we could ever get to see the report that the defendant, the government, has gotten now from an expert, which goes to the policy issues, but they‚Äôve had that for weeks now and still not given it to us, and I‚Äąneed that to decide whether (Dunderdale) has a role in the testifying or she doesn‚Äôt.‚ÄĚ