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University of Victoria denies liability in 2019 bus crash that killed two students

About 20 civil lawsuits have been filed by crash survivors.
Search and rescue crews and RCMP help a tow-truck crew remove the bus from an embankment next to a logging road near Bamfield on Sept. 14, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

The University of Victoria is denying liability in a 2019 bus crash during a student field trip to Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, according to court documents.

Two first-year students were killed and several others injured when a Wilson’s Transportation bus carrying 45 University of Victoria students and two staff slid off the gravel road to ­Bamfield and went down an embankment on Sept. 13, 2019.

About 20 civil lawsuits have been filed by crash survivors, seeking compensation for future care and medical treatment and lost earning capacity, among other damages. The civil notices of claim are not part of a class-action suit, though their claims for compensation are similar.

UVic is among the last of the defendants to file its response to the claims, which also targeted Wilson’s Transportation, bus driver Donald Middleton, Smith Transportation Limited, Western Forest Products, TFL 44 LP and TFL General Partner, the society doing business as Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre, and the B.C. government via the Ministry of Transportation.

Injuries cited by the claimants include mild to moderate traumatic brain injury and post-concussive symptoms, broken bones, cuts and scarring, and post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Lawyer Rajinder Sahota, who represents some of the claimants, said he’s not surprised that the University of Victoria and other defendants are “denying everything.”

The next step will include depositions — sworn evidence — from representatives of the defendants in what he expects to be a process that takes several years.

Sahota said the legal system as it’s currently structured is an adversarial one that incentivizes parties to take very strong positions in legal filings. “Often times it’s not until the 11th hour that parties will look at their responsibility realistically. “But for the purposes of filings, they’re going to put it to the plaintiff to prove every aspect and so they’re going to deny, deny, deny.”

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