St. John’s lawyer Ches Crosbie extended the provincial government an “olive branch” last week.
Mr. Crosbie is launching a class action lawsuit against the provincial government on behalf of people involved in moose vehicle accidents on our province’s highways. He’s suggesting the government has not properly controlled the moose population, therefore putting the driving public at risk.
The olive branch was the decision to limit participants in the lawsuit to people who were admitted to hospital after their accidents, rather than just anyone who hit a moose with their vehicles.
Mr. Crosbie, speaking to reporters after court, said limiting the number of people is “a basis for them (the government) to talk to us which would cost them less.”
In other words, he’s saying settle now out of court while you still can.
There’s only one problem with his logic. It’s not going to cost “them” less. It’s going to cost “us,” the taxpayers, less. At least by Mr. Crosbie’s logic.
Settling out of court is going to save Mr. Crosbie time, which will allow him to pursue other injury claims and make more money. Settling out of court would also open the door to more lawsuits. While not officially a ruling in favour of either side in a lawsuit, settling out of court suggests the defendant feels they’re going to lose anyway, and wants to cut their losses.
Moose accidents are horrible, there’s no doubt. Families’ lives have been shattered. They can happen to anyone on the road in a vehicle. They don’t always happen as a result of speeding, either.
These accidents are not a joking matter, yet Mr. Crosbie made light of the lawsuit in his summer 2011 advertising newsletter. He posted a picture of a roadside sign in Brazil warning drivers of giant rodents. His newsletter headline reads “Giant rodents cause collisions in Brazil, Newfoundland law firm considers class action.” Two paragraphs down, he admits he’s “joking”
Poor taste? Absolutely.
Launching a lawsuit for victims of moose-vehicle accidents in specific areas where brush cutting had not taken place might be reasonable. A lawsuit in a specific instance where the government had not taken action against a “nuisance moose” might be reasonable. But suggesting that the province is somehow responsible for every moose-vehicle accident in the last 10 years seems a bit much.
In the end, that will be for the courts to decide. In the meantime, the provincial government needs to see this through to the end, whatever the cost. This lawsuit should be about finding the truth and assigning responsibility, not settling fast and cashing out.