Four days before the one-year anniversary of the Westboro bus crash, the City of Ottawa has publicly acknowledged that the municipality and its insurers accept civil responsibility arising from the devastating collision and “will in due course formally admit that they accept the responsibility to compensate the victims.”
“While the City has held this position since the incident and has communicated this to the victims and their families, as well as having made several advance payments, making the formal admission will officially set aside any deliberation regarding the legal responsibility for compensation,” city solicitor Dave White wrote in a memo addressed to members of Ottawa city council, released publicly late Tuesday afternoon.
“This means that the City and its insurers can focus on determining what compensation is owing and on ensuring that the victims and their families are properly taken care of. The City’s priority has been to ensure they are treated fairly, reasonably, and with compassion. Therefore, assuming this responsibility aims to reduce the burden of additional legal proceedings.”
The crash on Jan. 11 last year claimed the lives of three public servants and injured dozens of other passengers on board the double-decker OC Transpo bus that barrelled into the overhang of a shelter at Westboro station on the Transitway.
According to White’s memo, 13 civil lawsuits seeking compensation for damages related to the collision have been filed against the city in the year since. Court documents show the amounts being sought by individual claims range between $1 million and $19 million.
The 13 claims include a class-action suit launched on behalf of all passengers on board the westbound express bus, as well as individuals who were on the platform where the bus jumped the curb, the memo confirmed.
On top of that, the city has received notices that 18 more civil claims will be filed, White said. External lawyers hired by the city are managing the civil claims, he reiterated.
The memo noted the municipality has issued about $3.5 million in advance payments so far to “victims and their families,” White wrote. Those interim payments began weeks after the crash.
“There is a long healing process ahead for many, so these payments were made in advance to reduce any financial barriers that may hinder this process,” White wrote.
“While this does not mean that the legal work is over, it significantly streamlines the process by focusing on proper compensation, rather than on legal responsibility. The amount of each claim still needs to be verified and quantified as part of the litigation process.
“This work is ongoing and will continue into the new year, when it is anticipated that some of the individual claims will be settled.”
White said Mayor Jim Watson requested he write the memo to address questions about outstanding claims related to the Westboro bus crash.
The city solicitor added that the criminal proceedings launched in relation to the Jan. 11 crash are “an entirely separate court process” from the city’s compensation work. The outcome in either process “will not have any bearing” on the other, White wrote.
Diallo faces three counts of dangerous driving causing death and 35 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm and is scheduled to stand trial for eight weeks beginning in March 2021.
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