City settles over $5 million in Westboro bus crash claims, class action motion dismissed

A police officer stands near a pole at the Westboro bus station and tapes off an accident scene
A police officer tapes off the area around the crash site at the Westboro bus shelter on Jan. 11, 2019. Photo by Charlie Senack.

By Maureen McEwan 

In the last two years, the City of Ottawa has paid more than $5 million in legal settlements over the fatal Westboro bus crash.

On Jan. 11, 2019, an OC Transpo bus driver lost control of their double-decker vehicle and collided into the overhang of Westboro Transit Station bus shelter. Judy Booth, Bruce Thomlinson and Anja Van Beek died in the crash and 23 others were left injured.

The City of Ottawa confirmed that 22 statements of claim have been put forward, with two of the three fatality claims settled. 

“To date, 30 notices of claim have been served to the City, with 22 Statements of Claim issued, including the class action which is proceeding,” said City of Ottawa Solicitor David White in an email Jan. 13. 

“The City and its insurers continue to work with the plaintiff’s counsel to settle claims that are submitted as being ready for settlement. Two of the three fatality claims have been settled. We are actively working on settling other claims and anticipate more plaintiffs will be in a position to settle this year,” White added on Jan. 13. “We have made further advance payments over the course of the year to settle partial claims for plaintiffs who have required financial assistance and are not yet recovered sufficiently to settle their full claims. Total claims paid to date is in excess of $5,000,000. The class action certification motion has been argued and we are waiting on the Court’s decision.”

Shortly after the second anniversary of the crash, the class action motion was dismissed at the Superior Court of Justice. 

The plaintiff leading the class action was a passenger who survived the Westboro bus crash. Justice Callum MacLeod gave his decision on Jan. 21.

“Class proceedings are not to be used to needlessly inflate tragic accidents into public spectacles. As discussed above, I do not consider this particular pleading to be an appropriate vehicle for a class proceeding. Ever if that alone is not fatal to the motion, I am not satisfied on the evidence before me that a class proceeding is either necessary or in the interests of justice. The motion is dismissed,” MacLeod wrote. 

The plaintiff has until April 23 to decide whether to change the lawsuit to an individual action, to amend the pleading in order to renew the class action for certification or to discontinue the action. 

The Westboro bus shelter stands empty at night with flowers on one side
Flowers and candles were left at the Westboro bus shelter in memory of the crash victims the week of Jan. 11, 2019. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Two years later, OC Transpo continues to use double-decker buses and the organization said safety is a priority. 

“The safety and security of our transit system, customers and employees is OC Transpo’s top priority. Double-decker buses are an integral part of OC Transpo’s fleet and have gone through rigorous testing in all conditions, including ice, snow, traction, wind and rollover testing and, like all OC Transpo vehicles, meet and exceed all applicable safety standards,” said Brandon Richards, chief safety officer with the City of Ottawa, in an email Jan. 13. 

 “OC Transpo follows related industry best practices, with a focus on continuous improvement with respect to safety and overall service performance. As always, OC Transpo works closely with the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) and the City’s Fleet Services to ensure continued compliance with MTO standards on vehicle inspections and maintenance,” Richards added. 

The trial of the bus driver is scheduled for March. 

With files from Charlie Senack.

Leave a comment