On July 18, 2020, three people were killed and 14 others suffered life-threatening injuries when a tour bus carrying passengers lost control in Jasper National Park’s Columbia Icefield. The all-terrain Ice Explorer vehicle, carrying 27 people, rolled approximately 50 metres down a moraine embankment before coming to a stop on its roof.
The Columbia Icefield is the largest icefield in the Canadian Rockies. During the summer months, visitors to the natural attraction can travel onto the surface of the Athabasca Glacier in “snowcoaches”.
A class action lawsuit has been filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench against eight defendants alleging that the defendants acted recklessly and unreasonably in the operation of an all-terrain tour bus.
CLASS ACTION ALLEGES THE ACCIDENT WAS “REASONABLY FORESEEABLE”
The lead plaintiff, Devon Ernest, was on a tour of the Icefields with his girlfriend, Dionne Durocher, and his cousin, Winnie Ernest. Durocher died at the scene of the accident. Devon Ernest suffered a concussion, a fractured wrist and lacerations to his head and hands. Winnie Ernest continues to remain in the hospital.
The class action lawsuit currently includes 10 of the 27 passengers on the bus.
The claim has been commenced against the following defendants, Brewster Travel Canada Inc., Viad Corp. Glacier Park Inc., Brewster Inc., Brewster Tours, Banff-Jasper Collection Holding Corp. ABC Corporation and the unidentified driver of the tour bus.
The lawsuit states that the “defendants knew or ought to have known that there was a significant risk to the plaintiff and class members and that the accident was a reasonably foreseeable result of failing to take adequate measures to prevent such incidents”.
According to the lawsuit, there were no seatbelts or rails on the tour bus and the claim contains allegations that the driver of the bus appeared to have lost control of the vehicle when going down a steep decline. The lawsuit states:
The operator of the tour bus, the defendant Jane Doe, attempted to brake, but was unable to reduce the speed of the tour bus. The tour bus lost traction with the road. The front right tires then approached the embankment and then went over the embankment. The tour bus went over the side of the embankment and rolled over four to six times, with at least two rotations occurring in the air, before coming to a stop on its roof.
The lawsuit also contains allegations that both the tour bus and the road were not properly maintained and that the tour bus was not in suitable mechanical condition.
None of the allegations included in the lawsuit have been proven in court.
INDEPENDENT CIVIL PROCEEDINGS MAY BE A BETTER CHOICE
Although it may seem advantageous to join a large class action lawsuit when you have suffered personal injuries as a result of a disastrous accident, such as the rollover in the Icefield, in some circumstances it may be more beneficial to opt-out of the class and bring an independent legal action.
We have previously blogged about the decision to opt-out of class action lawsuits in relation to claims involving long-term care facilities and situations where employers are liable for neglecting to protect the health and safety of their employees.
When it comes to class action lawsuits in Alberta, if an individual is covered by the definition of a class and chooses to take part in the action, there is no action to take. However, if an individual falls under the definition of a class member in a class action lawsuit and chooses to pursue an individual civil action, he/she must opt-out of the class action by a pre-arranged date following the certification of the class action.
There are a number of advantages to proceeding with an independent legal claim rather than a class action. One advantage is that it enables the injured party to control their own lawsuit and not be bound by any decisions that are made on behalf of the entire class. By proceeding with a claim independently, it will be the independent plaintiff’s decision whether to accept a settlement offer or proceed to trial.
In a class action, if the defendants are found liable, the payouts are spread equally across all injured parties. Unless you have suffered exactly the same injuries and/or financial damages as other members of the class, you may not obtain the full financial advantages of a class action lawsuit. Therefore, if you have suffered substantially more significant injuries or financial deficits than other class members it is important to opt out of a class action in order to receive greater compensation for your injuries or damages.
The biggest disadvantage to becoming a member of a class occurs if the class action proceeding is unsuccessful. In this case, individual plaintiffs are prohibited from proceeding with individual lawsuits.
At Cuming & Gillespie LLP we are committed to helping you and your loved ones. If you or a member of your family has suffered serious injury or significant harm due to someone else’s fault or negligence, the personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP may be able to help you obtain financial compensation. Our legal team will meet with you and evaluate your legal options to help you decide whether to pursue a claim. Contact our knowledgeable and experienced personal injury lawyers today to learn what options are available at 403-571-0555 or online.