Family members of Tracy Janvier (“Janvier”) are suing the RCMP, the federal government, the driver of the vehicle that initially struck Janvier and Constable Michelle Phillips (“Phillips”) for $909,000 for Janvier’s death that occurred on August 21, 2016.
Janvier was walking along Highway 881, approximately 80 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, when he was struck by a car and injured. An RCMP vehicle driven by Constable Philips, responding to the emergency call, proceeded to run over and allegedly kill Janvier.
According to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (“ASIRT”) (the department responsible for investigating incidents involving police that result in death or serious injury), which completed its investigation in June 2017, Janvier was walking along an unlit section of Highway 881 when he was hit by a vehicle and seriously injured.
ASIRT reported that the exact location of the injured pedestrian was not clear at the time that Constable Philips was dispatched to the scene. ASIRT further reported in a news release:
While responding [to the scene] at an extremely high rate of speed, the officer came upon a number of vehicles stopped on one side of the highway with their lights on and proceeded to drive past these vehicles without slowing. Unfortunately, this location was where the pedestrian had been originally struck, and the officer ran over the injured pedestrian prone on the roadway with the police vehicle, killing him.
Philips also struck the hand of a 71-year-old man, James Cardinal, that had been helping Janvier, causing him non-life threatening injuries. Cardinal was the passenger of the truck that initially struck Janvier. At the time of the initial accident, Cardinal exited his vehicle and proceeded to place the 911 call.
It has been reported that Constable Philips had approximately one year of experience with the RCMP at the time of the accident. Following the laying of criminal charges against her, Philips was suspended with pay and has remained off-duty until the resolution of the criminal charges against her.
THE CIVIL LAWSUIT
Janvier’s parents and three children commenced a civil lawsuit last summer seeking damages for emotional and nervous shock, grief and loss of love, guidance, support, assistance and companionship. The lawsuit alleges that Philips was negligent and was speeding, driving recklessly and carelessly when she struck and killed Janvier.
The lawsuit has also named Lucy Deltess, the driver of the first vehicle that ran over Janvier.
None of the allegations by Janvier’s family have been proven in court. We are not aware at this time whether any of the defendants have filed their statements of defence.
THE CRIMINAL TRIAL
RCMP Constable Michelle Philips plead not guilty to charges of dangerous driving causing death and dangerous driving causing bodily harm.
Last week, in the Court of Queen’s Bench in Fort McMurray, Justice John McCarthy found Constable Philips not guilty of all charges as there was not enough evidence to prove that the Constable had caused Janvier’s death.
Chief Medical Examiner, Dr. Elizabeth Brooks-Lim, testified that she could not determine which collision caused Janvier’s internal injuries.
Cpl. Mark Podesky, an RCMP collision reconstruction expert, stated that the initial collision was unavoidable as Janvier was walking in the middle of the highway in the dark. He also testified that Philips’ impact with Janvier was unavoidable.
I find that the Crown has failed to establish that the accused caused Mr. Janvier’s death, either in fact or in law. Rather, this is one of the rarest cases where the court is unable to determine on the evidence before it, whether the deceased was in fact alive at the time of the alleged prohibited act. … I cannot conclude that the second collision significantly contributed to his death.
Justice McCarthy said that Phillips had been driving reasonably, but a “reasonable driver would have observed [the pedestrians] earlier than Constable Phillips did”. Justice McCarthy went on to state:
While in my view she erred, it was not to the degree required to attract penal consequences.
According to the agreed statement of facts, Constable Philips drove up to the scene where multiple vehicles were pulled over to the side of the road. This was approximately 20 kilometres away from the location where the dispatcher had told her the injured pedestrian was located. Constable Philips testified that she believed the vehicles were pulled over because of the police sirens. She testified that she did not realize the two men were in the middle of the road until milliseconds before she hit them.
We will continue to follow any developments that become available regarding the civil lawsuit and will provide details in this blog.
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