(403) 571-0555
About Us
Our Team
Medical Malpractice
Personal Injury
News
FAQs
Contact
Cuming & Gillespie's COVID-19 Statement - Read Post

Written on behalf of Cuming & Gillespie

B.C. Appeal Court Allows Paralyzed Snowboarder to Sue Grouse Mountain

In March 2016, Jason Apps (“Apps”) fell while attempting to complete a jump at Grouse Mountain in British Columbia, rendering him a quadriplegic.

Apps sued Grouse Mountain, but his lawsuit was dismissed by the B.C. Supreme Court in June 2019.  Last week, a three-judge panel of the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned this decision.

WHAT HAPPENED?

In 2016, Apps, an Australian snowboarder, attempted to complete a jump at Grouse Mountain’s XL jump in North Vancouver.  Apps undershot the jump and landed upside down on the jump instead of on the downslope.  Apps was rendered a quadriplegic.

Apps filed a claim against Grouse Mountain ski resort in B.C.  He alleged that Grouse Mountain was negligent in its design, construction, maintenance and inspection of the jump.  He claimed that there was no safety aspect to the design of the jump and that the design of the jump maximized the risk of injury if a snowboarder loses their balance or if the snow conditions are slow.  He also alleged that the ski resort failed to warn of the risk of serious injury.

The lawsuit was dismissed as the judge agreed with Grouse Mountain’s position that the ski resort was covered by an exclusion of liability notice posted prominently at the resort, printed on the lift ticket and that there were adequate warning signs posted around the mountain.  The judge also found that Apps should have known of the risks given that he is an employee of a ski resort in Whistler.

THE APPEAL

Apps appealed the trial judge’s decision to the B.C. Court of Appeal.

There were two issues to be dealt with on the appeal.

  1. Whether Grouse Mountain had given reasonable notice that the waiver excluded liability for the company’s own negligence before Apps bought his ticket, not after; and
  2. Whether the fact that Apps had a season pass for Whistler Mountain and given his experience, he should have known of the waiver of liability for Grouse Mountain’s negligence.

Apps was not required to sign a waiver when he purchased his ticket to ski at Grouse Mountain.  A large sign hanging over the ticket booth with the words “Please Read” contains the company’s waiver of liability.  This sign includes a section stating that the resort is not responsible for its own negligence.  A similar waiver was also contained on the back of the lift ticket.  It was acknowledged by the trial judge that the wording in question was found in a hard to read section with many commas and semicolons and with no highlighting or emphasis.

The resort maintains that there were two large signs warning of the risks and responsibilities associated with skiing and snowboarding.   Apps contends that he never read any of these signs or waivers and didn’t sign anything to exclude Grouse Mountain’s liability.

At the appeal, the court found that the trial judge erred in its decision that Apps was given proper notice given the hard-to-read ticket booth waiver.

The appeal court stated:

… only the steps Grouse Mountain took before and at the time of the issuance of the ticket can be taken into account in assessing whether Grouse Mountain took sufficient steps to give reasonable notice to Mr. Apps of the terms of its waiver, and in particular of the inclusion of their own negligence clause.  … By the time Mr. Apps arrived at the Terrain Park, he had paid for his non-refundable ticket, taken the lift up the mountain, and had begun snowboarding.  It was far too late to give notice of what was in the waiver.  That had to be done at or before the ticket booth.

The appeal court also did not agree with the trial judge’s decision that Apps’ experience at Whistler Mountain and the fact that he signed an exclusion of liability waiver in Whistler proves that he should have had knowledge regarding Grouse Mountain’s waiver.  The court stated:

Actual knowledge from Whistler was not proven, or even seriously alleged.  [T]hat assumption is not transferable to satisfy Grouse Mountain’s obligation.  …  I do not think the fact that Mr. Apps had some previous awareness that when he signed an agreement at Whistler, he was waiving legal rights of some sort, can satisfy that obligation in this case. 

This appeal court decision does not prove that Grouse Mountain was negligent and is therefore responsible for Apps’ injuries, but rather allows Apps to pursue his claim in court.

We will continue to follow this case as Apps proceeds to trial and will report any developments in the law regarding liability waivers and negligence in this blog.

In the meantime, if you or a loved one has experienced a serious personal injury or loss as the result of someone else’s fault or negligence, you may have grounds to pursue legal action against them in the form of a personal injury claim.  Please contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers for a free case evaluation online or by calling 403-571-0555.  We are dedicated to providing you with the legal help that you deserve. 


Research Confirms that Vehicle Infotainment Systems are a Distraction to Drivers

Research has found that new vehicle’s built-in infotainment systems are having the same adverse effect on drivers as handheld cellphones.  According to a study sponsored by the American Automobile Association (“AAA”), technology found in new cars, including multilayered menus on large display screens, voice-recognition commands and backup, side-view and 360 degree cameras, are adversely effecting drivers.

AAA STUDY OF THE VISUAL AND COGNITIVE DEMAND OF INFOTAINMENT SYSTEMS

David Strayer, a professor and director of the University of Utah’s Center for the Prevention of Distracted Driver, along with his team, have been studying the effects of in-vehicle technology on the ability of the brain to function.  They have found that technology introduced to improve vehicle satisfaction is essentially overloading brain mechanisms and causing driver distraction. 

New vehicles feature Bluetooth links to smartphones, audio controls, GPS navigation systems, external camera views, data regarding fuel consumption and distance to destination, lane-keep assist and controls for the vehicle’s climate system.  These features may include controls that utilize touch screens, rotary dials, voice commands and handwriting with a finger on a screen.

Drivers are becoming distracted by having to take their eyes off of the road to look at the infotainment controls and read messages.  Studies have found that after looking away from the road for 2.5 seconds the risk of a crash increases.  More often than not, drivers are spending 40 seconds looking at their vehicle’s infotainment systems.

Strayer’s team also found that drivers are becoming distracted as a result of the “mental effort” needed to use their vehicle’s technology.  The mechanism in the brain that is used to decipher the vehicle’s controls is also required to make plans and decisions while driving.  According to Strayer, “[u]sing your voice to communicate with computers requires a great deal of mental energy”.

AAA used Strayer’s research to release a ranking of vehicles based upon the level of distraction created by their infotainment systems.  None of the vehicles tested were ranked as having a “low” demand on a driver’s attention.  However, there were a number of vehicles with infotainment systems found to require a “moderate” demand on driver’s attention.

SENIORS ARE EVEN MORE DISTRACTED BY VEHICLE INFOTAINMENT SYSTEMS

Strayer’s team also studied age-related differences and the demands of a vehicle’s infotainment system.  They studied younger drivers (aged 21 to 36) and older drivers (aged 55 to 75) in six different 2018 motor vehicles.  While driving, drivers were asked to perform basic tasks on the vehicle’s infotainment system, including changing the radio station, sending a text message, making a phone call and entering a destination into the navigation system.

According to Strayer:

In our tests, everyone was distracted by these systems, but older drivers were distracted for much longer periods of time.  People my age struggled to use these things and were oftentimes frustrated.  They’d say that it makes no sense to be doing this while you’re driving.

Strayer’s team found that older drivers, on average, took their eyes off the road for eight seconds longer than younger drivers.  They also found that older drivers took longer to complete tasks in all categories.  Younger drivers, for example, took 28 seconds to send a text message using the infotainment system in comparison to 34 seconds for older drivers.

Strayer provided an explanation as to why older drivers become more distracted:

As we get older, we’re slower, and we tend to have more difficulty with complex interactions.  And older drivers are probably not as familiar with tech in general – there’s still a market for flip phones, and that market isn’t people in their twenties.

DISTRACTED DRIVING IN CALGARY DROPS IN 2019

Calgary police issued 36% less distracted driving tickets in 2019 compared to 2018.  There were 3,783 tickets handed out for distracted driving in 2019, down from 5,944 tickets handed out in 2018. 

Although it is unclear which factors have played a role in the decrease of tickets being issued for distracted driving, it remains clear that distracted driving continues to cause more collisions than impaired driving and is easily preventable.

One factor that may have caused the decrease in the number of distracted drivers in Calgary is the hefty fine and demerit points for those who are issued a ticket.  In Alberta, distracted drivers are subject to a $287 fine and three demerit points.  However, these are the lowest fines in Canada, except for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Nunavut (which does not have any distracted driving legislation). 

Saskatchewan has recently raised its fines to $580 for a distracted driving offence.  They also have escalating penalties for second and third offences within a 12-month period, which will cost drivers $1,400 and $2,100 respectively, plus a seven-day vehicle seizure.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident that was caused by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation for the damages you have suffered.  It is important that you call the lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers promptly so we can help you understand your rights and the potential to recover compensation for your injuries.  Please contact the experienced personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers online or by calling 403-571-0555 for a free consultation today.


Family Sues Seniors’ Home for $1.25M Where Mother Froze to Death

The topic of elder abuse and nursing home neglect is receiving more and more attention.  Once a private matter, stories of elderly parents or family members receiving inadequate care in nursing homes is increasingly being reported and garnering attention in the media.

Sadly, this is the case in the death of 93 year-old Helene Rowley Hotte Duceppe (“Duceppe”).  She died of hypothermia in January 2019.  Former Bloc Quebecois leader, Gilles Duceppe, and his six siblings are now suing the Lux Gouverneur Montreal for gross negligence, seeking $1.25 million in damages.  They are seeking compensatory and punitive damages and allege “grave negligence” on behalf of the staff and inadequate procedures at the residence where Duceppe suffered an untimely death.

WHAT HAPPENED?

On January 20, 2019, Duceppe died of hypothermia outside of her east end Montreal residence, the Lux Gouverneur, when she was stuck outside in the cold for six hours.  She had exited an emergency exit to an outdoor courtyard due to a false fire alarm that went off at 4:55 a.m.  The temperatures were -35 degrees Celsius with the windchill, and there was blowing snow.

The apartment complex where Duceppe was residing was made up of three towers, connected by interior corridors.  At 4:12 a.m., a carbon monoxide leak set off a fire alarm in Tower 2.  In error, at 4:55 a.m. a general alarm was set off for all three towers, including Tower 3 where Duceppe resided.  This alarm was turned off less than five minutes later and an announcement was made that residents in Towers 1 and 3 should remain in their apartments. 

It is suspected that because Duceppe was hard of hearing, she did not hear the announcement that her particular building was not being evacuated. 

Duceppe exited an emergency-exit door, which locked behind her.  She was unable to re-enter the residence as her access card did not work.  There was no doorbell, intercom and no way for her to communicate with anyone inside the building.

An alarm was tripped when Duceppe exited through the emergency door, which continued to ring for nearly four hours.  It was turned off at 8:45 a.m. by an employee.  However, no one checked outside of this door.

According to its website, Lux Gouverneur is a private luxury apartment complex that offers security which includes 24-hour concierge, video surveillance, an emergency call system and electronic chip cards to access apartments and buildings.

CORONER CONCLUDES THAT DUCEPPE’S DEATH COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED

A coroner’s report, published this past summer, concluded that Duceppe’s death was preventable and identified a number of mistakes made on the part of the staff at the senior’s residence.

Coroner Gehane Kamel (“Kamel”) concluded that Duceppe died mere minutes before her body was found by an employee at 11:04 a.m.  Kamel determined that Duceppe’s death was an accident, but was a preventable death.  Kamel met with the management of Lux Gouverneur and was advised that they were in the process of updating the buildings’ emergency procedure.

Coroner Kamel made a number of recommendations to avoid this tragedy in the future, including:

  • Installing intercoms and doorbells at each of the residence’s emergency exits and an indicator panel to connect all exits and show when there is an anomaly;
  • Requiring that staff check all stairways and outdoor exits after any alarm is triggered;
  • Requiring that staff conduct a head count of each resident after an alarm is sounded;
  • Preparing a written emergency procedure to follow after an alarm goes off;
  • Designating one staff member with the role of safeguarding the residents and monitoring all surveillance cameras; and
  • Ensuring that residents’ medical files reflect their current situation.

Gilles Duceppe stated:

We can’t understand how something like this can happen.  There were cameras, they could have seen her.  … You have to open the door:  they could have saved her, she would have come in.  She was just there, on the other side.

The Duceppe family’s lawyer is hopeful that this tragedy will prompt a discussion regarding the need for stricter standards at seniors’ homes.  He stated:

We hear more and more about the problems that stem from the lack of security in these residences, but also sometimes because of lack of personnel, lack of training, carelessness in some cases.

A statement by the management of Lux Gouverneur has responded to the lawsuit by stating:

The safety and wellbeing of residents is a top priority for management.  Due to the ongoing legal procedures, we will not be granting interviews.

Negligence, such as that alleged by the Duceppe family, can occur in numerous ways and in general occurs when any conduct does not meet the reasonable standards for protecting a person from foreseeable risks of harm. 

We will continue to follow the Duceppe lawsuit and will report on any updates in this blog.

If your family suspects that your loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect by nursing home staff, contact the personal injury lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers.  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 to learn what options are available at 403-571-0555 or online today.


No-Fault Car Insurance Anticipated This Spring in British Columbia

A massive revamp of British Columbia’s auto-insurance regime is expected to be implemented in May of 2021.  The B.C. government has recently announced that it will be changing to no-fault auto-insurance. This means that in most cases there will not be any lawsuit following a motor vehicle accident.  ICBC will handle all auto insurance claims, assess the medical costs and control the payout.

Under the proposed insurance regime, individuals who have complaints or disputes regarding their claim will have no access to the Courts to resolve their claims. All issues will be dealt with through ICBC channels.

Many are voicing their opposition to the proposed legislation as it will take away the legal rights of British Columbians to go to court and receive a fair settlement and will result in injured parties being under-compensated. 

Lawyers throughout British Columbia are concerned that these new changes will significantly affect the compensation or damages for victims of motor vehicle accidents.  A representative of the Canadian Bar Association – B.C. criticized the government’s proposed changes to the auto-insurance regime:

Our system of justice is built on fairness and the acceptance of responsibility for our actions.  An innocent victim of an accident has a right to expect that the person at fault for the accident take responsibility for it.  In a no-fault insurance plan, no one but the victims and their families bear the consequences of that accident.

Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers will continue to provide updates through this blog as we become aware of further information regarding changes to auto insurance in British Columbia and throughout Canada. 

If you or a loved one have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, call Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers today for a free initial consultation and speak to one of our experienced personal injury lawyers to get the help and advice you need.  Please contact our office online or by calling 403-571-0555 to make an appointment for a free case evaluation.  We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation that you deserve.


Midwifery in Alberta

The birth of a child is one of the most exciting times in a couple’s life.  Most deliveries result in a beautiful baby, and tired, but delighted parents. However, there are times when this isn’t the result.  When complications arise that put both the mother and the child at risk.  If these complications are found to have been preventable, and either the mother or baby suffered injuries, it may be a case of medical malpractice.

Midwives are becoming a popular alternative for pregnant women.  In Alberta, registered midwives deliver approximately 5.5% of the babies in the province.  In Canada, midwives delivery 10.8% of the babies across the country.

Midwives are especially common for those choosing an at home birth.  Utilizing a midwife may allow for a more personalized approach to the birthing process and help women to create an individualized birth plan.  Midwives are trained to recognize any variations in the normal progression of labour and are trained to discern a high-risk situation.  However, when they fail to do so, or their care falls below the accepted standard of practice in the medical community, the life of the mother and the child may be at risk.

WHAT IS A MIDWIFE?

A midwife is a medical professional who provides primary care to low risk patients and their newborns from birth through to 6 weeks postpartum.  Midwives have a duty of care to provide proficient support, care and advice during pregnancy, labour and the post-partum period. 

In Alberta, registered midwives have access to laboratories and diagnostic services, they are able to prescribe select medications, and they can consult and refer to other specialists when necessary.  Patients of midwives are able to choose whether to deliver in a hospital, birth centre or at home.

Since 1998, midwifery has been a regulated profession in Alberta.  The College of Midwives of Alberta is the regulatory body responsible for the registration and practice of more than 130 registered midwives in Alberta.  In April of 2019, registered midwives in Alberta became one of the health professions to become a self-governing college under the Health Professions Act.  The Midwives Profession Regulation defines the qualifications, practice and boundaries of the midwifery profession.

Beginning in April 1, 2019, midwives who completed additional training by the College of Midwives of Alberta, were granted enhanced privileges to prescribe, dispense and administer prescription drugs and to use ultrasounds to determine fetal position.  They were also permitted to give patients anti-anxiety medications and narcotic painkillers while in hospital.  In terms of post-partum care, midwives were granted the ability to prescribe and administer vaccines, prescribe contraceptives and contraceptive devices, and insert IUDs.

MIDWIFE NEGLIGENCE

Midwives in Canada are well trained and well prepared to manage low-risk pregnancies and deliveries.  They are also qualified to recognize when there are symptoms or circumstances beyond their expertise requiring the need for medical doctors.  Although it is rare, errors in treatment by medical professionals, including midwives, can lead to tragic consequences. 

Some birth injuries caused by medical negligence by a midwife can result in:

  • Cerebral palsy;
  • Brachial plexus;
  • Injuries to the mother;
  • Brain injuries; or
  • Fractured or broken bones.

MOTHER WINS LAWSUIT AGAINST MIDWIFE

In December 2011, Cabe Crossman (“Cabe”) was born at the Cowichan District Hospital on Vancouver Island under the supervision of a midwife and two nurses.  During the delivery, the baby suffered severe brain injuries.  These injuries caused both mental impairment and cerebral palsy, requiring Cabe to rely on extensive care for the remainder of his life.

Cabe’s mother, Sarah Corrin, sued the midwife (who cared for her prior to going to the hospital), the Vancouver Island Health Authority, and the two nurses who worked at the hospital.  The lawsuit claimed that the care the mother and baby received from all parties was negligent.  Corrin alleged that her labour and delivery were not properly monitored, assessed or responded to. 

In August 2016, when the lawsuit finally made its way to court, the defendants admitted that they were liable, and a judge approved the settlement agreed upon between the parties. According to the agreement, the defendants were to pay $3 million, plus annual installments of $400,000 to assist with Cabe’s medical care.  This is an unusual, but not “unprecedented” settlement agreement that was approved by the court.  Cabe’s life expectancy was anticipated to be between 12 to 30 years, therefore the final award could be well over $10 million. 

If you or a loved one have suffered injuries because of a negligent midwife or medical professional, it is essential to understand the legal options that may be available to you.  The lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers are well equipped to handle cases involving birth trauma and help you recover damages from the responsible parties.  We can assemble a team of legal and medical experts to ensure that you put forth the strongest case and receive the compensation you are entitled to. 

With over 20 years of experience, the award winning lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers have handled many different types of medical malpractice claims, and have the experience and knowledge to evaluate your case and help you decide whether you should pursue a claim.  Call us at 403-571-0555 or online today to book a free consultation.


New Report Finds Needless Auto Insurance Hikes In Alberta

By now we have all heard, or have experienced firsthand, that Alberta drivers are facing higher auto insurance rates.  The insurance companies blame the rising insurance rates on increasing claims and expense costs that are exceeding the premiums. 

Fair Alberta Injury Regulations (“FAIR”), an Alberta group advocating for fair auto insurance, has recently released a report that has found that the assertions by some the insurance companies that the industry is in crisis due to a reported rise in bodily injury claim costs are incorrect. 

Recent History of Rate Caps on Insurance in Alberta

In 2017, the NDP government placed a 5 percent cap on insurance rate hikes to address the insurance rising costs in the auto industry.  When the United Conservative Party came into power in Alberta, the provincial rate cap was allowed to expire in September 2019 with the new government granting the Automobile Insurance Rate Board (AIRB) the authority over auto insurance rates.

Less than six months after the Alberta government removed the rate cap on auto insurance policies, the United Conservative government has announced that it is creating a panel to review the rising insurance rates.  According to Finance Minister Travis Toews, the rate cap on insurance is just a “band-aid” approach.  Toews stated,

“A three-person committee will look at what’s working and what’s not in our current automobile insurance system.  They will look to find solutions that make sense for Albertans.”  

The panel will provide its recommendations by the spring of 2020. 

The AIRB reports that 92 percent of insurance companies that insure private passenger vehicles have asked the board for a rate hike and 27 insurers in Alberta have recently been grated rate hikes between less than one percent to almost 30 percent for basic coverage on private passenger vehicles.   

What Is the Automobile Insurance Rate Board?

The Automobile Insurance Rate Board, otherwise known as AIRB, is the regulatory board responsible for monitoring and adjusting the cost of auto insurance in Alberta.  The board was established by the Minister of Finance and Alberta’s provincial government. 

AIRB’s mandate is to ensure that the interests of Alberta’s residents, businesses and the government are being served in relation to automobile insurance.

How Are Auto Insurance Rate Increases Determined?

AIRB reviews auto insurance rates each year in Alberta.  The following are factors that are considered by AIRB:

  • The strength and profitability of the insurance industry in a given year;
  • The importance of providing rates to the public that are fair and stable;
  • The projected stability of auto insurance rates over the next 3-5 years;
  • The strength of the Canadian dollar;
  • The cost of the average auto insurance claim payout;
  • The number of fraudulent insurance claims in a given year; and
  • The frequency and severity of natural disasters within the province.

What Is FAIR and What Did FAIR’s Recent Report Reveal?

FAIR is a coalition of Albertans that includes consumers, medical professionals, injured Albertans and members of the legal community that are dedicated to protecting the rights of those injured in motor vehicle accidents. FAIR is committed to holding auto insurance companies accountable and ensuring that injured Albertans are receiving sufficient compensation and appropriate treatment options for their injuries. FAIR advocates directly to the government to provide an opposing position to those that speak on behalf of the insurance industry.

As insurers maintain that increasing injury payouts are creating a “crisis” in the automobile insurance industry as companies are paying out more than they are bringing in through premiums, FAIR retained the services of an actuary to study data released by AIRB and industry statistics from the General Insurance Statistical Agency. 

A report prepared by Craig A. Allen (“Allen”), a Canadian consulting actuary based in New York, indicates that the AIRB overestimated the severity of bodily claims reported in its 2018 annual report.  Allen does recognize that injury claims rose between 2011 and 2016 but has reviewed all of the data and maintains that injury claims have levelled off since then. 

According to Allen, the rate cap was high enough to cover injury claims in the last few years as the AIRB rate hikes accounted for claims increasing at a faster pace than they actually did. Allen wrote:

Allowable rate levels since late 2017 … provide more than adequate amounts for the estimated bodily injury claims costs that have subsequently emerged. For insurers that have kept up to date with their rate changes, further rate increases for bodily injury coverage appear to be unnecessary at present and for a period into the future.

Allen’s report indicates that the AIRB overestimated the severity of claims in its 2018 annual report and has revised these figures to lower amounts.

FAIR maintains that insurers are hoping to change insurance laws and increase their profits, and in doing so reduce consumer rights and protections. 

FAIR contends that insurers are attempting to influence the government to change the definition of “Minor Injury” in the auto insurance regulations. Changes of this nature would benefit the insurer by allowing the insurer not to compensate an individual injured in an accident in Alberta.

According to a FAIR spokesperson:

All this time, insurance companies have been blaming Albertans who have been injured in accidents for rising premiums, but now we have data that says that’s not true.  This report raises a lot of questions.  We now know injuries aren’t driving insurance rates.  We also know many insurers in Alberta are still making tens of millions in profit each year.  Consumers deserve answers to these questions.  We should know if we all are being asked to bailout insurance companies who have simply made bad bets or made some poor business decisions.

Choosing a personal injury lawyer to represent you or a loved one in your time of need is not a decision to be taken lightly. As a firm of lawyers who specialize in personal injury law and medical malpractice, the experienced lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers have a strong reputation in the community and in the legal profession. 

At Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers, we strive to provide our clients with excellent legal services, and we offer a free consultation. Our personal injury lawyers are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding hiring a lawyer for your personal injury or medical malpractice case. Please contact our office at 403-571-0555 or online.


Sepsis – The World’s Leading Cause of Death

A recently published study in the medical journal, The Lancet, has found that sepsis is the leading cause of death in the world.   In fact, it is more widespread than cancer or coronary disease. 

Sepsis is responsible for one in five deaths worldwide.  The study found that in 2017, an estimated 48.9 million incidents of sepsis were recorded worldwide and 11 million sepsis-related deaths were reported, representing 19.7% of all global deaths.

Study co-author Dr. Tex Kissoon, a professor at UBC Faculty of Medicine, stated:

Eleven million deaths worldwide is a tragedy, especially as most cases of sepsis are either preventable or treatable if caught in time. … We urgently need a coordinated global effort to tackle this crisis.  Raising awareness of sepsis among both patients and medical practitioners and ensuring everyone has access to public health measures to prevent and treat sepsis can greatly reduce the burden and ravages of this condition.

WHAT IS SEPSIS?

Sepsis is caused by the immune system going into over-drive in response to an infection.  Your immune system protects your body from illnesses and infections.  Sepsis develops when the chemicals the immune system releases into the bloodstream to fight an infection cause inflammation throughout the entire body instead.  The inflammation causes tiny blood clots to form, which blocks oxygen and nutrients from reaching vital organs.

There are three stages of sepsis:

  1. Sepsis occurs when the infection reaches the bloodstream and causes inflammation in the body.
  2. Severe sepsis occurs when the infection is so severe that it affects the function of the body’s organs (i.e. the heart, brain and kidneys).
  3. Septic shock occurs when the body experiences a significant drop in blood pressure, which can lead to respiratory or heart failure, stroke, the failure of other organs, and death.

Anyone can fall victim to sepsis or septic shock, although it most often occurs in older adults, pregnant women, children younger than one year old, individuals who have chronic conditions or those with weakened immune systems.

Any type of infection can lead to sepsis, however, the most common types of infection that seem to develop into sepsis are pneumonia, abdominal infection, kidney or urinary tract infection and bloodstream infection.

The early symptoms of sepsis should not be ignored and it is recommended that individuals visit their doctor or an emergency room if they develop the following symptoms:

  • Fever, typically higher than 38 degrees Celsius;
  • Low body temperature (below 36 degrees Celsius);
  • Fast heart rate (higher than 90 beats per minute);
  • Extreme pain or discomfort;
  • Confusion or disorientation;
  • Clammy or sweaty skin;
  • Rapid breathing (higher than 20 breaths per minute);
  • probable or confirmed infection.

A blood test is ordered if your health professional suspects that you are suffering from sepsis. Depending on the results of your blood test and your symptoms, other tests, such as a urine test, a wound secretion test and/or a mucus secretion test, may be ordered. If the source of the infection cannot be determined, your doctor may further order the following tests, x-rays, CT scans, ultrasounds or MRI scans.

The chances of developing sepsis can be greatly diminished by reducing the risk of infection through hand washing, staying up to date on vaccinations, getting the flu shot, pneumonia vaccines, getting immediate attention if you develop signs of infection and taking antibiotics as prescribed. 

CAUSES OF SEPSIS

There are a number of causes of sepsis.  Some of the most common causes of sepsis include:

  • Nursing homes or hospital patients who are not moved on a timely basis can develop bedsores which can lead to infections;
  • IV lines or other medical devices and equipment that are not properly sanitized can lead to infections;
  • Many surgery patients need antibiotics to heal properly.  If the medications are not properly prescribed, wounds can fail to heal which can lead to infections;
  • If a doctor fails to recognize that a patient has an infection, the patient can develop sepsis and related illnesses.

MEDICAL MALPRACTICE CLAIMS INVOLVING SEPSIS

In some cases, a doctor may examine a patient and fail to diagnose sepsis or fail to treat sepsis properly.  There are also cases when an infection that causes sepsis was caused by unhygienic hospital conditions or negligent medical attention.  If these situations arise, a patient may have a medical malpractice claim.  That is not to say that every sepsis diagnosis or bad medical outcome is the result of malpractice.

Experienced medical malpractice lawyers, along with medical experts, can establish if preventable errors were made during the treatment of you or your loved one in a medical facility. 

If you or a loved one has developed sepsis while undergoing medical treatment, or suffered injuries as the result of an undiagnosed or mistreated sepsis diagnosis, you may be able to file a legal claim against the responsible party.

It is in your best interest to promptly hire a skilled and experienced law firm to guide you through the litigation process and answer any questions that you may have.  Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers can help evaluate your specific case to determine whether you have a valid medical malpractice claim.  Contact our office online or at 403-571-0555 for a free consultation today.  We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation that you deserve.


E-Scooters Were a Success in 2019: What Changes Can We Expect for the Return in Spring 2020?

In Calgary, e-scooter riders are taking the winter off.  In the meantime, city officials are reviewing all of the data collected by the city, Alberta Health Services and ride-share companies to assess the successes and failures of the four month pilot project.

A shared e-bike pilot project began in October 2018 with 500 e-bikes in Calgary.  In July 2019, e-scooters were introduced with 1000 e-scooters deployed by Lime and 500 e-scooters deployed by Bird in Calgary.

During the four month pilot project (July to October 2019), more than 150,000 individuals used the scooters over 915,000 times.  Calgary Major Naheed Nenshi addressed the success of this pilot project:

Calgary was the first jurisdiction in Canada to allow e-scooters, and over all, our first season was a success.  We know one-third of all scooter trips replaced one by car, and more than that, it made transportation fun.  We’ll be making some adjustments heading into Year 2, and hope to see even more success.

STUDY BY THE CUMMING SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

The City of Calgary commissioned a study by the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine to study all e-scooter injuries that required an ambulance.  Using this data, as opposed to those who self-report at the emergency department, would provide more detailed information regarding how, why, when and where individuals were being injured as a result of riding e-scooters. 

The data showed that between July 8, 2019 and October 1, 2019 there were 33 e-scooter injuries that required an ambulance.  Of those injured, 32 of them were riders and the other was a pedestrian who was injured by a scooter rider. 

According to the study, the most common causes of injury involved speed, losing control or hitting a pothole or stationary object.  Of the 33 incidents, eight patients were found to have alcohol in their system and two accidents involved a motor vehicle. 

Unfortunately, only one of the seriously injured riders had been wearing a helmet.  Although this is not required by city by-laws, wearing a helmet while operating an e-scooter is highly recommended, especially by Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers, for safety purposes and to avoid the risk of a head injury.

According to the medical data, it is estimated that serious e-scooter injuries requiring hospitalization occurred at a rate of 1 patient per 100,000 rides.  There were more non-admitted e-scooter injuries resulting in a visit to the emergency room, which were estimated to occur at a rate of 1 per 1,500 rides.

NEXT STEPS CONSIDERED FOR THE RETURN OF E-SCOOTERS IN THE SPRING

It is anticipated that e-scooters will return to the streets of Calgary in the spring of 2020.  To address various concerns derived from data collected by a public survey (over 9,000 individuals responded), 311 phone calls (281 calls) and the studies regarding e-scooter injuries, a number of issues will need to be addressed before the next phase of the pilot project.

According to the December 18, 2019 Phase One Report, there is a plan to lower speed zones in high pedestrian areas, such as 4 Street SW in Mission and 17 Ave SW in the Beltline.  In specific areas, the speed limits will be dropped from 20km/h to 15 km/h.

There is also a plan to implement designated parking zones for e-scooters in high demand parking areas.  These designated parking zones will be installed prior to the re-introduction of e-scooters in the spring of 2020.

It was also determined that there is also a need to introduce and better enforce by-laws that are specifically related to the operation of e-scooters.  The need to enforce rules and laws will need to be addressed by the administration in the coming months. 

A plan is also being developed to provide new signage and education in an effort to inform users on the operation of e-scooters and to provide safety tips.

We will continue to follow the legislative changes that are being considered for the operation of e-scooters and the plans for enforcing any rules or by-laws that are being developed to address the complaints and injuries surrounding the use of e-scooters in Calgary.  We will also report in this blog should any litigation arise out of injuries that have occurred during the use or operation of this mode of transportation as its use rises in popularity.

In the meantime, if you or a loved one have suffered personal injuries as a result of an accident and believe a third party is responsible, please contact the award winning and experienced lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers online or call 403-571-0555.  We offer free consultations for new clients.  We will review your case to determine the best approach to take and how we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.


Medical Malpractice Litigation for Delayed Cancer Diagnosis 

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, cancer is the leading cause of death for Canadians and is responsible for 30% of all deaths.  Canadian statistics indicate that one in two Canadians is likely to develop cancer during their lifetime and that one out of every four Canadians will likely die from cancer.  The most commonly diagnosed types of cancer in Canada are lung, breast, colorectal and prostate cancer.  Cancer can occur at any age, but typically affects those aged 50 and older.

THE EARLIER THE DIAGNOSIS, THE BETTER

In general, the earlier that a patient is treated, the better chances there are for a cure or recovery.  Many cancer treatments are most effective before the disease spreads.  Thus, the earlier that cancer is diagnosed the better the chances of surviving.  If a doctor fails to recognize symptoms which would lead a reasonable professional to diagnose cancer, the patient may be deprived of treatment options which could lead to a recovery. 

Cancers such as colon, lung, breast, prostate, cervical, testicle, kidney and non-small cell cancers respond well to early treatment.  However, other types of cancers such as small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and ovarian cancer have a poor chance of recovery regardless of when the cancer is detected.

Given that there are so many types of cancers that are treatable, early diagnosis is key to preventing serious health consequences or even death.  Therefore, unreasonable delays in diagnosing a patient with the disease may result in unnecessary treatments, costs and a lower survival rate and may become the foundation for a medical malpractice claim.

BURDEN OF PROOF

In Canada, a plaintiff (the individual bringing a case against another in a court of law) must prove on the balance of probabilities that an earlier diagnosis would have changed the patient’s medical outcome.  In other words, the plaintiff would likely not have experienced the loss had he/she been diagnosed earlier.

The Ontario Court of Appeal clarified this burden by stating, “[i]t is not sufficient to prove that adequate diagnosis and treatment would have afforded a chance of avoiding the unfavourable outcome unless that chance surpasses the threshold of ‘more likely than not’.”  

PROVING CAUSATION

When proceeding with a medical malpractice claim, the plaintiff must be able to prove causation.  The following are the components necessary to prove causation in the case of medical malpractice involving a delayed cancer diagnosis:

  1. The patient must prove that the cancer was present when the doctor examined the patient;
  2. The patient must prove that he/she would have been diagnosed at an earlier time if the doctor had met the standard of care; and
  3. The patient must prove that the outcome of his/her disease probably (not possibly) would have been more favourable with an earlier diagnosis.

Although scientific precision is not required in order to prove causation, the plaintiff must be able to prove that an earlier diagnosis probably would have changed the patient’s medical outcome.

EXAMPLES OF ERRORS RESULTING IN A DELAYED CANCER DIAGNOSIS

There are a number of examples of ways in which a doctor may have failed to make an early diagnosis.  A doctor may have failed to take a proper individual or family history, failed to investigate the risk factors, failed to take the patient’s complaints seriously or neglected to order imaging, biopsies, blood tests or other diagnostic tests after reviewing the patient’s symptoms. 

The correct interpretation of various diagnostic tests including ultrasounds, mammograms, x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, biopsy samples and pathology slides are essential for a proper and early diagnosis.   The failure to examine and review these types of tests may delay the diagnosis and the availability of treatment options for the patient.

Communication errors may also result in a delayed cancer diagnosis.  Delays may occur if a doctor fails to communicate the test results to the patient or to follow-up on test results that have been ordered.  Doctors may also fail to recognize the significance of some of the symptoms or findings and fail to refer the patient to an appropriate specialist in a timely manner, thus delaying the diagnosis and treatment.

COLORECTAL CANCERS DIAGNOSED IN CANADA TOO LATE FOR EFFECTIVE TREATMENT

According to a report released by the Canadian Cancer Society, nearly half of all colorectal cancers in Canada are diagnosed after they have already spread to other parts of the body.  The statistics show that 49% of those diagnosed with colorectal cancers are diagnosed in Stage 3 or Stage 4, at which point they are most likely untreatable.

When colorectal cancer is diagnosed at Stage 1, the five-year survival rate is close to 90%.  However, when it is diagnosed at Stage 4, the survival rate drops below 15%. 

It is believed that many Canadians are not participating in the colorectal cancer screening programs, which are available in every province except Quebec.  The Canadian Cancer Society recommends having your stool screened every two years if you are 50 to 74 years of age and not at high risk of colorectal cancer.  The screening tests can help detect cancer early and result in a more positive outcome.

Medical malpractice claims related to a delayed cancer diagnosis are complicated legal claims that require the help of lawyers with experience and expertise.  If you or a loved one have suffered as a result of a doctor’s failure to diagnose cancer, the lawyers at Cuming Gillespie Lawyers can help you evaluate your legal options and help you decide whether to pursue a claim.  Contact our office at 403-571-0555 or online today to book a free consultation.


Everything You Need to Know About Winter Tires

Driving in snow and cold weather is inevitable in Alberta.  However, many drivers believe that purchasing winter tires is an unnecessary expense.  It is not uncommon for drivers to assume that all-season tires work perfectly well for year-round driving.  Unfortunately, this is not the case given our harsh winters.

WHY SHOULD I PURCHASE WINTER TIRES?

If you live in an area of the country where it snows or temperatures dip below 7 degrees Celsius consistently, a set of winter ties will profoundly improve your safety during the cold winter months. 

Studies have shown that at temperatures below 7 degrees Celsius all-season tires stiffen up, resulting in less traction and a deterioration in braking distance and car handling.  This type of reaction to the cold can increase the chance of getting into an accident when driving in colder weather.

The main difference between winter and all-season tires is the rubber compound used to make them.  Winter tires are made of softer rubber that remains flexible when temperatures drop and they are able to maintain a grip on the road.  Winter tires also have deeper treads that allow for better traction on snow and ice.  The wider grooves of winter tires allow water to drain more easily and keep snow from clogging their tread.  Winter tires are also designed with stronger materials to ensure that they make better contact with the road and prevent sliding.

Testing completed by the reputable publication, Consumers Reports, consistently shows the benefits of winter tires in cold climates, such as Alberta.  According to tests, winter tires have been proven to stop 1.8 metres shorter on average than all-season tires when braking on a skating rink.  When testing on moderately-packed snow, winter tires travelled faster than their all-season counterparts.  Winter tires were found to take 19.5 metres to go from 10 to 30 kilometres an hour compared to 26 metres it took for all-season tires.

To summarize, the benefits of winter tires are as follows:

  • They help reduce braking distance on cold, wet, ice and snow-covered roads;
  • They stay flexible in cold temperatures and ensure grip and braking on wet roadways; and
  • They maximize vehicle handling, stability and braking.

All of the benefits of winter tires will increase the safety of driving during the cold, winter months and may decrease the likelihood of a motor vehicle accident.

IS IT MANDATORY TO INSTALL WINTER TIRES IN ALBERTA?

It is not mandatory to install winter tires in Alberta.  According to Transportation Minister, Ric McIver:

No I don’t believe that we are thinking about making snow tires mandatory, but I will remind Albertans, since you asked, that each of us has a responsibility to make our vehicles safe.  People that choose not to use snow tires also need to choose to drive within the capabilities of their vehicle that may not have snow tires.  Snow tires would actually give vehicles more capability that way.

According to a 2018 survey by the Alberta Motor Association, 68% of its members reported using winter tires and approximately half of its members would support regulations to make winter tires mandatory in Alberta.

In Quebec, winter tires are mandatory between December 1 to March 15, and have been mandatory since 2007.  This criterion applies to taxis, rental vehicles, motorized scooters and motorcycles as well.  A penalty for failing to use winter tires is a fine of between $200 and $300.  During the first two winters following regulations requiring winter tires to be installed on all vehicles, there was a 5% drop in motor vehicle accidents and a 3% drop in the number of deaths and serious injuries.

There are also specific highways in British Columbia that require drivers to install winter tires due to unpredictable weather conditions.  In Manitoba, you can receive a special loan to help purchase and install winter tires and in Ontario the use of winter tires is rewarded with lower vehicle insurance premiums. 

WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR WHEN PURCHASING WINTER TIRES?

The lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers would like to provide the following tips to assist in purchasing winter tires.

  • Winter tires should be installed on your vehicle when the outside temperature drops consistently below 7.2 degrees Celsius and can be replaced with all-season tires when the temperature consistently rises above 7.2 degrees Celsius.
  • Use four matching winter tires for the best balance of handling and grip.
  • The mountain and snowflake symbol indicates that the tire meets an industry-defined level of snow traction.
  • Proper installation of winter tires is key to your safety.  Trusting a professional to install your winter tires will ensure that they are adjusted to your vehicle. 
  • Be aware that winter tires wear more quickly and their performance in winter will decline with use.  It is best to replace winter tires before they are worn out.
  • Winter tires should be stored in a cool, dry location in black storage bags to prevent the rubber from drying or cracking.

Cuming & Gillespie Lawyers hope that everyone enjoys a happy, healthy and safe Canadian winter, and know that we are available should anything go wrong.  If you or someone you love has suffered a serious personal injury or been involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in personal injuries this winter, contact our experienced personal injury lawyers at our office online or at 403-571-0555 for a free consultation.  We look forward to helping you obtain the compensation that you deserve.


Personal Injury

Read more

Medical Malpractice

Read more

Our Team

Latest News

T-Bone Motor Vehicle Accidents

Birth Trauma and Medical Malpractice

The Lawyer-Client Relationship in Personal Injury Cases

Speeding Continues to be a Concern Despite Less Traffic Tickets Issued in Calgary in 2020

The Most Common Slip and Fall Injuries

What our clients have to say