Ontario Superior Court rejects lawyer's request to intervene in fatal vehicle collision

The case arose from a collision between a minivan and a Canadian Pacific Railway train

Ontario Superior Court rejects lawyer's request to intervene in fatal vehicle collision

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice dismissed a lawyer’s motion to intervene in a personal injury action despite his claim that the case outcome could significantly impact his potential exposure to a professional negligence claim.

The dispute in Williams v. Williams, 2024 ONSC 2732, arose from a tragic collision between a minivan and a freight train operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. Andrew Williams was driving the minivan when the accident occurred, resulting in the deaths of two of his children, Wynter and Brooklyn, and causing severe injuries to another child, Dryden.

Following the incident, the children’s mother filed a personal injury lawsuit on behalf of herself and her surviving children against Andrew, CP Rail, the train’s engineer and conductor, and the Town of Lakeshore.

A settlement was reached in February 2014 between the plaintiffs and Andrew, in which Aviva Canada Insurance Company, Andrew's insurer, paid $1 million. The settlement was approved by the court in July 2014. However, disputes have since arisen regarding the interpretation of the settlement terms, particularly whether the plaintiffs’ release of Andrew also precludes claims against CP Rail and Lakeshore.

Gregory Monforton, who represented the plaintiffs during the settlement, sought to intervene in the parties’ dispute over the settlement's interpretation. He requested permission to submit evidence and make oral arguments, claiming the outcome could significantly impact his potential exposure to a professional negligence claim. He also sought a declaration that the plaintiffs had waived their privilege over communications with him related to the settlement.

The Superior Court evaluated whether Monforton met the criteria under Rule 13.01 of the Rules of Civil Procedure to intervene. The rule permits non-parties to intervene if they have an interest in the case, may be adversely affected by its outcome, or share common legal questions with the parties involved.

While the court acknowledged that Monforton might be adversely affected by the settlement interpretation, it found no evidence of an interest in the case's subject matter or common legal questions. The court emphasized that allowing his intervention would unduly delay the resolution of the main dispute, which had already been postponed multiple times since September 2022.

Ultimately, the court ruled that Monforton had not demonstrated that his participation would provide a unique and useful contribution to the case. The court held that Monforton’s proposed evidence was subject to solicitor-client and settlement privileges, which had not been waived by the plaintiffs or Andrew.

The court also saw the intervention as likely to cause significant delay and prejudice to the other parties, particularly the minor plaintiffs who are still awaiting the final resolution of their claims nearly 12 years after the accident. Accordingly, the court dismissed Monforton’s motion to intervene.

 

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