A Regina court is to hear arguments Friday over whether there should be a delay in a lawsuit stemming from the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash.
Sixteen people were killed and thirteen were injured in April 2018 when an inexperienced semi-driver drove through a stop sign and into the path of the junior hockey team‘s bus at a rural intersection near Tisdale, Sask.
In all, 11 lawsuits have been filed by victims and their families.
Lawyers for a proposed class action hoping to be certified after a hearing in April 2022 are asking the Court of Queen’s Bench to delay a suit filed shortly after the crash.
The five families behind the early lawsuit have said they are ready to go ahead and delay would cause them more pain.
Their lawyers say waiting at least another year, if not longer, could affect evidence and witnesses they need.
A lawyer for the class action has said one suit moving ahead affects the others, and because there are so many victims the “least worst option” is for everyone to wait until the certification hearing.
John Rice of Vancouver said the court needs to balance the interests of everyone behind each lawsuit to ensure fairness.
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.
Rice said almost all other litigants, including 11 surviving players, are co-operating in waiting until the certification application is heard.
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.”
Herold said he would suffer psychologically if the lawsuit were delayed and plans to opt out of the class action if it is certified.
In court filings, Kevin Mellor, a lawyer for the five families, said the case began three months after the crash and there’s been a lot of work done over the last two years to prepare.
He 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.
As well, Mellor said, the RCMP officer who warned the Saskatchewan government about the dangers of the intersection — there was another deadly crash there in 1997 — is not in good health.
Lawyers for the Saskatchewan government recently argued in court that, because of the province’s no-fault insurance, the province should be struck as a defendant from the class action. A judge has not yet ruled on that application.
— With files from Bill Graveland in Calgary
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