‘Always new expenses:’ Lawsuits filed as anniversary of Broncos bus crash nears

By Stephanie Taylor and Bill Graveland

THE CANADIAN PRESS

It’s been almost two years since the deadly Humboldt Broncos bus crash in Saskatchewan and with the solemn anniversary comes a closing legal window that has seen several lawsuits filed in court.

Sixteen people died and 13 others were injured after a transport truck barrelled through a stop sign and into the path of the bus carrying the junior hockey team on April 6, 2018.

The inexperienced driver of the truck, Jaskirat Singh Sidhu of Calgary, was sentenced to eight years in prison.

A proposed class-action lawsuit was filed Friday in Regina Court of Queen’s Bench against Sidhu and his former employer. It also lists the governments of Saskatchewan and Alberta, as well as the federal government.

“The people wanting to go forward aren’t motivated financially so much as these were wrongs by governments,” said lawyer Tony Merchant. He pointed to the trucking industry as a major concern.

Carol and Lyle Brons are listed as the plaintiffs. Their 24-year-old daughter, Dayna, was the team’s athletic therapist and was killed in the crash.

Also listed are all the others who were on the bus, their families, all hockey team staff, billet families and first responders who treated the victims.

At least one family has said it has asked to be removed from the class action, which still needs to be certified by the courts.

Several other lawsuits have also been filed.

Russ and Raelene Herold of Montmartre, Sask., were among the first of the families to file a few months after the collision. They are suing the truck driver, the Calgary-based company that employed him and the bus manufacturer. The lawsuit asks for damages and a court order that all buses carrying sports teams in Saskatchewan be equipped with seatbelts.

The couple’s son, 16-year-old Adam, was the youngest player on the team to be killed.

Their suit has since been joined by the families of three players and an assistant coach who died: Jaxon Joseph, 20, of St. Albert, Alta.; Logan Hunter, 18, also of St. Albert; Jacob Leicht, 19, of Humboldt; and Mark Cross, 27, from Strasbourg, Sask.

No statement of defence has been filed in that lawsuit.

Injured Broncos player Derek Patter, 21, of Edmonton, filed in March against the truck driver and the trucking company. The Alberta government joined as a plaintiff to recoup health-care costs.

Kevin Matechuk of Colonsay, Sask., said his family would also be filing a lawsuit against the trucker and trucking company on behalf of his son Layne, 20, who is still recovering from a traumatic brain injury.

“He will need special care. We don’t know if he will ever be able to live on his own. We’re hoping so. It’s still our hope and dream.”

It’s the same situation for Ryan Straschnitzki, 20, of Airdrie, Alta., who was paralyzed from the chest down. His suit also takes on the Alberta and Saskatchewan governments, as well as the team’s bus driver.

“There’s always new expenses and he’s going to have to be taken care of for the rest of his life,” said his mother, Michelle Straschnitzki.

“We won’t always be here. And people don’t understand … long-term care for people who are in wheelchairs _ the cost is astronomical.”

The Straschnitzkis said they’ve received hateful comments and death threats since their lawsuit was reported in the news last week.

“Ryan never got millions from the GoFundMe like a bunch of these dummies are saying,” said his father Tom Straschnitzki.

A GoFundMe campaign, which raised more than $15 million, paid out $525,000 to each of the families who lost a loved one and $475,000 to each injured player.

Some families have said they plan to give away through charities some of the money they received from donations.

“It’s not our plan to sue,” said Toby Boulet, whose 21-year-old son, Logan, was killed.

The Lethbridge family has used money received to set up a fund for causes that were important to their son, including organ donation.

The Adam Herold Legacy Foundation is a charity that gives Saskatchewan youth a chance to develop their hockey skills and leadership potential.

Others, including Evan Thomas’s family of Saskatoon, have given back through memorial scholarships and other donations.

Evan’s father, Scott Thomas, said the family decided against legal action.

“We just don’t feel its part of something we want to be a part of,” he said.

Thomas said it might have been different if his son had lived.  “I know a lot of people think insurance is going to take care of them, but it’s not.”

At least one injured player doesn’t want anything to do with a lawsuit.

Myles Shumlanski of Tisdale, Sask., said his 22-year-old son Nick just “wants to move on.” He was the only one on the bus able who walked away without serious injuries.

“We’re going to put in for a little bit of insurance,” said his father.

“He doesn’t even feel comfortable doing that.”

COVID-19 and insurance woes create ‘perfect tsunami’ for condo managers

COVID-19 and insurance woes create ‘perfect tsunami’ for condo managers

The excerpted article was written by Yvette Brend · CBC News ·

The coronavirus crisis is complicating condo life, just as a second wave of soaring insurance premium hikes is about to kick in.

For condominium residents, the COVID-19 crisis has led to elevator restrictions, party bans and quiet hallways as people try to keep two metres apart.

For condo property managers — it’s a frantic time.

“Some stratas are more prone to drama that others,” said property manager Allen Regan who is busy keeping up with changing disinfecting and physical distancing rules, while juggling the personalities and logistics involved in upcoming annual general meetings.

The cost of catastrophes, claims and expensive repairs have sent insurance costs soaring — in some cases doubling them — and many were hit with new costs at the end of 2019.

The other half were bracing for cost increases starting April 30.

Then came COVID-19.

“It is sort of a perfect tsunami of problems all coming at once,” said Regan, managing broker with Bayside Properties and Services Ltd., which helps manage strata corporations in the Lower Mainland.

Now the coronavirus crisis is forcing some of B.C.’s condominium stratas onto shaky legal ground as they try to balance achieving a quorum of 10 council members to pass budgets with physical distancing rules.

Building managers are also trying to balance the privacy rights of potentially-infected residents in isolation with the safety concerns of other condo dwellers as the virus spreads worldwide.

Some of them are vulnerable because of their age or underlying health issues. People are being urged to inform management if they are self-isolating, so it can take safety and cleaning precautions.

“You need to look out for them and accommodate them at the same time,” said Tony Gioventu, president of the Condominium Home Owners Association of B.C.

Condo community enforces social distancing

Gioventu says the condo community is also good at catching rule breakers, like the group that returned from Arizona to Vancouver Island last week and headed out shopping in the community but were reported to health authorities by neighbours.

Gioventu also urges condo dwellers to call police if they hear house parties — as gatherings like this are against provincial health rules and punishable with fines.

As cleaning regimes are ramped up, strata corporations also must pass budget increases to handle rising insurance costs. Regan says this must happen fast as strata corporations are non-profits, so they do not have financial cushions to draw on if owners refuse to approve budget increases or pay strata fees or special levies.

If that happens, then “it’s a huge, immediate financial problem for the strata corporation. This at a time when people are strapped financially,” said Regan.

‘Rabble rousers’ may challenge video AGMs

He is not sure if anybody will challenge the video conferenced AGMs as invalid under the Strata Property Act.

To hold an AGM, there needs to be 10 people present, and that’s a challenge with social distancing rules that require humans to stay two-metres apart. Regan said that stratas can pass a bylaw to allow an alternative form of meeting but not many stratas have that in place.

So they are moving ahead anyway, as budgets need approval and corridors need cleaning.

“We have a few rabble rousers that have threatened to go to the CRT — which is the civil resolution tribunal — if meetings aren’t held ‘properly.’ I think most councils are saying fine. Let the chips fall where they may,” said Regan.

Source: CBC News

Insurers are under the gun as COVID-19 claims mount – but will those claims be covered?

Insurers are under the gun as COVID-19 claims mount – but will those claims be covered?

The excerpted article was written by

The Star Vancouver

When Dr. Michael Duchnay had to close his west end Toronto dental practice due to the pandemic, it was catastrophic, but there was one stroke of good luck: He had insurance. In fact, his business policy explicitly mentioned pandemic-caused closures.

But when he shuttered his shop March 15 after an advisory from the Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario strongly recommended he do so, his initial attempt to collect was rebuffed.

It took two weeks of runaround before insurance giant Aviva Canada agreed to pay him and other Ontario dentists for the pandemic coverage included in their expensive policies.

But while the dentists may have won their fight, other Ontario business owners might not be so lucky, experts say.

“I would say that given the extent of the loss here, cutting across multiple industries, really all sectors, the insurers are in a bit of a difficult situation,” says Toronto lawyer Hovsep Afarian, who specializes in insurance coverage law.

“So their reflexive response has been, let’s deny and we’ll sort things out later,” says Afarian, who works at the national firm McCarthy Tetrault LLP.

He says denials are being made to all kinds of claims — likely, he believes, because the insurance companies are hoping that Ottawa will offer up more aid in the meantime.

“I think a part of it may be motivated by the potential for the government to step in and provide alternative avenues for redress,” says Afarian who has already taken on pandemic clients.

“So if there’s another pocket involved, the insurers have essentially mitigated their loss because no doubt they’re going to say ‘look to the government first.’ ”

Aviva Canada CEO Jason Storah announced Tuesday evening that the company would be honouring its pandemic commitment to dentists, saying they had a unique arrangement for such viral coverage.

“There were a number of complex legal, regulatory and operational hurdles related to the dentists’ claims that we simply had to work through,” Storah said in a statement.

But, Storah said, the hurdles have now been overcome.

“As a result I can confirm today that Aviva Canada will of course stand by this pandemic coverage,” he said, adding there would be guidance from the company soon on making claims.

Afarian says most businesses would not have pandemic language written into their property policies. And if they don’t, he says, there is a real legal question as to whether pandemic related interruptions are covered.

“Business interruption is usually a component of a property policy (for which) you need physical damage,” Afarian says.

“So the debate in the industry is ‘do we have physical damage if there is a virus in the building?’ ”

READ MORE HERE: 

Can I lower my car insurance rates if I’m working from home?

Can I lower my car insurance rates if I’m working from home?

The excerpted article was written by Cathy Kearney · CBC News

Auto insurance is an essential financial protection, but as the COVID-19 pandemic forces more employees to work from home and results in others being laid off, many are left to wonder if they can drop some of their coverage to save on premiums.

CBC News reached out to several insurance brokers in Metro Vancouver who say they have been inundated with calls from drivers asking about making changes to their insurance coverage.

Kally Khosah with InsureBC says a number of people are cancelling their auto insurance altogether.

“The majority of people who have lost their jobs are coming in and cancelling their insurance,” said Khosah.

“I would say maybe one or two out of 10 customers is looking to cancel their insurance,” he said.

CBC News asked Khosah what drivers should consider when making decisions about lowering auto insurance coverage.

Can drivers lower their insurance rates if they are working from home and therefore not commuting anymore?

“They can. What they need to do is change their plan from work use to strictly pleasure. That can be changed at any time.

“And if they are going back to work — go see your broker and they will change it back to work use.”

How much will I save?

“It depends on how far you drive to work. If it’s under 15 kilometres you won’t see that big of a difference. If it’s over 15 kilometres it will be more. And if it’s for business use it will be even more of a savings.

“You can go all the way down to bare-bones basic coverage but that’s only going to give you $200,000 liability.

“At this level there’s no coverage on the vehicle if they have an at-fault accident. And there’s no comprehensive, so there’s no fire, theft or vandalism coverage at that level.”

Is it wise to drop coverage down to the the most basic level?

“I tell people never to go down that severely. A good way to decrease your insurance is to slightly lower your liability and raise the deductible. That’s a good way to save some money without losing all your coverage.”

What happens if I can no longer afford to pay my insurance?

“ICBC is offering a deferral program for up to three months.”

What should I do if I get into an accident?

“First thing you want to do is contact ICBC. You also want to write down as much information as you can about what happened and write down the other party’s information. If anybody’s seriously injured, of course you want to contact the police.”

I have been laid off and might consider doing deliveries for work. Do I need to change my policy?

Yes. Khosah says that change will be more expensive than business coverage though. The cost depends on the type of car, how old it is and how many kilometres are on it. But it will definitely be an extra fee.

Edited for ILSTV

Source: CBC News

Parents should respect custody arrangements during COVID 19 pandemic: Ont. courts

By Paola Loriggio

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO _ Parents who share custody of their children should continue to split parenting duties with their former spouse during the COVID-19 pandemic, unless there is evidence the kids’ health is at risk, Ontario courts advise.

Though it has reduced its operations due to the public health emergency, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice recently issued a handful of rulings setting out guidelines for parents confused about how restrictions related to the novel coronavirus affect custody arrangements.

While government and health officials stress the need to stay home, keeping children in their primary residence and thus away from the other parent that is generally not in their best interest, the court said.

“Children’s lives and vitally important family relationships cannot be placed ‘on hold’ indefinitely without risking serious emotional harm and upset,” Justice Alex Pazaratz said in a ruling last week.

“In troubling and disorienting times, children need the love, guidance and emotional support of both parents, now more than ever.”

As such, Pazaratz wrote, the presumption is that existing parenting arrangements and schedules should continue in the majority of cases, while potentially making changes to transportation or exchange locations to ensure physical distancing guidelines are followed.

Some parents may have to forgo time with their child if they are under self-isolation due to recent travel or exposure to COVID-19, the judge wrote.

Parents who believe their ex isn’t taking the necessary health precautions can file an urgent motion with the court to review custody arrangements, but they must point to specific behaviours or plans that are inconsistent with COVID-19 protocols, Pazaratz said.

“There will be zero tolerance for any parent who recklessly exposes a child (or members of the child’s household) to any COVID-19 risk,” he wrote.

Justice officials in Quebec issued similar guidelines for parents, stressing the need for collaboration in working out any issues related to the current restrictions.

“The custody or access order should be complied with as much as possible,” the Ministere de la Justice said on its website.

“However, during this pandemic, you can try to work out new terms with the other parent to minimize travel.”

The province has set up a free legal aid hotline for residents unsure of their obligations during the COVID-19 crisis, which it said includes custody issues.

The Law Society of Ontario has also launched a hotline connecting callers with family lawyers who can provide 30 minutes of free legal advice to help determine if their matter is urgent.

Though there will likely be many more cases dealing with custody issues in light of the pandemic, Pazaratz’s ruling and at least two others issued by the Ontario courts send a “clear message” to parents, said Nicholas Bala, an expert in family law at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.,

“The message is…be reasonable, act in good faith and expect some eventual accountability if you haven’t done that,” he said, adding any breaches of custody orders will be noted once the courts resume normal operations.

This can be a difficult situation to navigate for many separated parents who feel “an understandable degree of hostility or mistrust towards the other person,” but they must focus on what’s best for their child, he said.

Nadine Russell, a family lawyer with Siskinds LLP in London, Ont., said it’s likely some parents have withheld access to children in a panic, but stressed there is almost always an alternative.

Even if a parent who normally has some access is quarantined due to the virus, video calls can be arranged so children can stay in touch without endangering their health, she said.

“However we can maintain relationships, we should do that,” because no one knows how long the pandemic will last, she said.

For Nicole Odermatt, physical distancing restrictions and prolonged school closures have meant dramatically altering custody arrangements with her ex-husband, with whom she shares the care of two young children.

The Cambridge, Ont., mother said she and her ex normally take their children a six-year-old boy and three-year-old girl for a week at a time, starting on Fridays.

But her ex has asthma and fell ill last week, and his partner is pregnant, which makes them both more vulnerable to COVID-19, Odermatt said.

So Odermatt, who works in the travel insurance industry, picked up the kids early, planning to work from home and care for them at the same time, she said.

Her workload proved overwhelming due to widespread travel cancellations, however, and Odermatt is now using up her paid leave from work, she said.

“It’s more (about) damage control/minimizing-the-risk situation at the moment,” she said.  “Obviously, he misses them, they miss him. It’s hard for me to have them full time but we’ve got to do what we can to keep everybody as safe as possible.”

Hospitality workers hit ‘first and hit hardest,’ says union seeking more support

The union representing many of Canada’s hotel and hospitality workers says almost all its 18,000 members face layoffs due to COVID-19, and it wants immediate help for service workers across the country.

Unite Here officials estimate their members and more than 200,000 other service-industry workers will be unemployed as up to 90 per cent of Canada’s hotels are expected to close amid the COVID-19 crisis.

Zailda Chan, president of Unite Here Local 40 in Vancouver, says hospitality workers are primarily immigrants, women, single parents and people of colour, often living paycheque to paycheque.

She says an 80 per cent wage replacement program is needed because newly announced federal supports or employment insurance will not be enough for workers making about $20 per hour.

Ian Robb, an Edmonton-based Canadian director of Unite Here, says the union must also be consulted as governments consider the take over of shuttered hotels to ease the burden on crowded hospitals.

He supports the move to put  “less needy” patients into hotels but says Unite Here wants to be  “part of the conversation” about who will operate the hotels and work in them.

Chan says the union also hopes any bailouts to the hotel and airline industries will include measures to help employees, such as extension of medical benefits.

“Hospitality workers were hit first and hit the hardest,” Chan said during a teleconference, adding they are among the lowest-paid and face a recovery period that could last six months to a year.

“Eighty per cent wage replacement is not just for hospitality workers, it is for all workers. We are highlighting hospitality workers because we represent thousands in that sector, but we think it should be for all workers,” she said.

Unite Here members are employed in six locals across Canada, in hotels, casinos, airports, arenas, universities, schools and remote resource camps, the union said.

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