N.S. Judge Rules Driver, Owners of Vehicle Liable in Mishap That Crushed Boy

THE CANADIAN PRESS
The Amherst Daily News

HALIFAX   A judge has ruled there's no argument that the driver and owners of a vehicle are liable in a 2000 parking lot accident that crushed a young Nova Scotia boy, leaving him with severe brain damage and other injuries.

The next step for lawyers to try to negotiate is the amount of damages Brandon Wade, now 10, is entitled to in a lawsuit his family has filed.

The Dartmouth boy was two when he was pinned between a car and a van on Sept.7, 2000, when Margaret Emily Burrell, then 64, backed into the vehicles in the West End Mall parking lot in Halifax.

Brandon's father, Peter Wade, suffered a broken leg in the accident.

In May 2002, Stephen Madden , Brandon's grandfather,_ filed a lawsuit in Nova Scotia Supreme Court on the boy's behalf against Burrell, her granddaughter Heather Davis and Davis's parents, Alan and Deborah Davis.

On Thursday, Justice Glen McDougall granted a summary judgment on the issue of liability against Burrell and the registered owners of the car, Deborah and Alan Davis.

A similar judgment against Heather Davis has been adjourned.

"Basically, the court agreed that there was no valid defence and that they strike out their defence on that issue," John McKiggan, the Halifax lawyer representing Brandon and his family, explained Friday in an interview.

"But the issue of damages . . . is still a live issue. In other words, they're still allowed to fight that part of the claim."

Thursday's judgment brings the lawsuit one step closer to being settled.

If the parties cannot reach an agreement on damages for things like medical expenses, future loss of income and pain and suffering, there will be a mini-trial, after which a judge will decide the amount.

In Canada, there is a $320,000 cap on the amount of damages people can receive for the most catastrophic type of injuries.

McKiggan could not say how much he will seek for Brandon.

"What I would suggest is that our client's injuries were very significant, and we believe that the damage award should also be significant _ certainly in the higher end of the range as opposed to the lower end."

The defendants did not fight Thursday's summary judgment application.

Brandon is doing as well as can be expected of a child who has suffered serious physical injuries and a brain injury, his lawyer said.

"He has significant cognitive deficits that are going to be permanent and that are going to significantly (affect) him for the rest of his life and are going to have a huge effect on his ability to work," McKiggan said.

"He's a very happy child but he has very significant challenges that his parents are trying to manage now and that his parents and Brandon will have to deal with forever."

And the costs of the medical care he's going to require for the rest of his life are going to be significant, McKiggan said.

In June 2002, another Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge approved a $50,000 interim settlement to help pay for Brandon's ongoing medical care.

Heather Davis was the principal driver of the car Burrell was driving. The suit alleges the university student let her grandmother, Burrell, drive the car without ensuring that she was capable of doing so.

As well, her parents, who now live in New Glasgow, N.S., are being sued for allegedly failing to properly maintain the car, which they owned, allowing Burrell to drive, and failing to tell their daughter not to let anyone else drive the car.

Burrell and the Davises have denied the claims in the suit.

Burrell, the Davises and their lawyer could not be reached Friday.

More than a month after the crash, Halifax Regional Police ticketed Burrell for unsafely backing up.

She was to go to trial last September but instead, pleaded guilty through her lawyer and was fined $128.75.  

18/07/08