The issue as to whether victims of New York’s catastrophic 2005 Windsor Wildcats bus crash should have their damages capped at $326,000 in accordance with Canadian law is now making its way to New York state’s highest court. On July 2, Seeger Weiss LLP, the law firm representing 11 of the accident’s victims, was granted permission by the N.Y. Appellate Division, 4th Department, to appeal the choice-of-law issue to the N.Y. Court of Appeals. The issue is a critical one because the value of the vast majority of the victims’ claims far exceeds the Canadian cap on damages, note Seeger Weiss attorneys Marc Albert and Moshe Horn.
Messrs. Albert and Horn point to the first trial in connection with the crash that concluded this past March, in which they obtained a $2.25 million verdict from a Livingston County jury on behalf of three victims whose injuries were considered to be on the low end of the spectrum of injuries arising from the accident. The attorneys note that application of the Canadian cap both to this verdict and the remaining victims’ claims – which include four cases that resulted in death – would have a crippling effect on the compensation ultimately awarded, and produce what plaintiff’s counsel believes would be an extremely unjust result.
“We firmly believe that New York law – not Canadian – applies here,” said Mr. Albert. “Not only did the accident take place in New York, but it involved commercial vehicles owned by defendant companies who were regularly using New York roadways for profit.”
“Application of a $326,000 Canadian cap to victims with injuries ranging from crippling orthopedic injuries to brain damage and death is incomprehensible,” said Mr. Horn. “This is especially so, given that the Court has already determined that New York law and un-capped damages will be applied to the claims of the truck driver, who has been held to be partially at fault for the accident. We’re very pleased that the Appellate Division has allowed us to appeal this issue to the Court of Appeals.”
The Wildcats accident occurred when a bus carrying members of a Windsor, Ontario, girls’ hockey team collided with an illegally parked tractor-trailer in Geneseo, N.Y., causing multiple fatalities and severe injuries. Plaintiffs’ counsel maintained that the sleep-deprived bus driver was negligently trained and supervised by defendant bus company Coach Canada. As a result of parties’ stipulation of liability, Coach Canada assumed legal responsibility for 90% of the accident, and the tractor-trailer defendants, including J&J Hauling Inc., were liable for the remaining 10%.