Yonge St. van attack lawsuits face hurdles with insurance claims


If a drunk driver veered onto a sidewalk, killing 10 people and injuring 16, his auto insurance policy would typically pay damages awarded to the injured parties in a lawsuit.

But if the driver was found to have driven into the pedestrians intentionally — as Alek Minassian is alleged to have done with a rented van in April 2018 — the insurance providers could argue that no payout is required. Alternatively, they might offer a reduced payout of as little as $200,000 — the statutory minimum for coverage — no matter how much the driver was insured for, and that amount would be shared among the many victims.

With the first of several expected lawsuits against Minassian and the van rental company now filed with the court, experts say the victims of the Yonge St. rampage may be denied the benefits they would have received in a typical collision case.

“While insurance policies cover most vehicular conduct, if you intentionally injure someone with your car it does not provide coverage because insurance is not intended to cover intentional criminal wrongdoing,” said personal injury lawyer Darcy Merkur.

Merkur has filed a $6-million dollar lawsuit against Minassian and the rental van company on behalf of Amir Kiumarsi, who was severely and permanently injured in the incident.

None of the allegations in the statement of claim have been tested in court and no statements of defence have been filed. Minassian’s lawyer in the civil case did not respond to a request for comment. Minassian’s criminal case is ongoing and a trial has not yet been scheduled.

In a written statement, Ryder spokesperson Amy Federman said the company’s position — which has not been tested in court — is that Minassian used a “properly rented Ryder van” to commit “premeditated and intentional” acts.

Federman said Ryder follows the industry best practices for security and has cooperated with the investigation into an incident it views as “unforeseeable and senseless.”

“Ultimately, the question is, who pays for my innocent client’s damages, if anyone?” said Merkur.

Kiumarsi’s own insurance provider is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit because, if the other insurance providers only end up paying a fraction of what Kiumarsi is awarded, his own insurance could cover the rest, Merkur said.

However, he said, this leaves plaintiffs who don’t have their own auto insurance in a difficult position.

They may be able to obtain some money from the “last resort” Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund operated by the province but that amount would be capped, he said.

Merkur says one argument that the plaintiffs may pursue is asking the court to treat each person injured as a separate incident, allowing them to each be entitled to $200,000 rather than having to divide that amount.

“You take the horror of this experience, of being injured in the van attack, and then you tell them, ‘By the way, all of those things you’d be eligible to recover if this was a normal accident aren’t available to you.’ It’s just very hard to explain that to accident victims,” Merkur said.

“The system is broken.”

Erik Knutsen, a Queen’s University law professor specializing in insurance law, said the difference between Minassian’s case and other criminal driving offences, such as impaired driving or dangerous driving, is the apparent intent to harm.

“A drunk driver is an idiot and shouldn’t have been drinking,” said John McLeish, a personal injury lawyer whose firm will be representing three plaintiffs in lawsuits against Minassian which have not yet been filed. “But that drunk driver didn’t intend to injure or kill someone.”

This makes Minassian’s defence in the criminal case — and the outcome of the case — particularly important to the civil lawsuits.

It also raises the question of whether it is time for the provincial government to increase minimum statutory third-party coverage to $1 million — the minimum amount offered by most insurance companies now, says personal injury lawyer Joseph Campisi.

“The damage that can be caused in a single accident can easily be in excess of $200,000. Maybe now is the time to think about changing that to be in line with today’s expectations,” said Campisi, who is not involved in the Minassian case.

Minassian is scheduled for his first appearance at Superior Court on Tuesday when trial dates may be set. He is facing 10 charges of first-degree murder and 16 of attempted murder.

Alyshah Hasham is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and court. Follow her on Twitter: @alysanmati

It looks as if you appreciate our journalism. Our reporting changes lives, connects communities and effects change. But good journalism is expensive to produce, and advertiser revenue throughout the media industry is falling and unable to carry the cost. That means we need you, our readers. We need your help. If you appreciate deep local reporting, powerful investigations and reliable, responsible information, we hope you will support us through a subscription. Please click here to subscribe.


Source link

قالب وردپرس

Opening relief line before Yonge subway extension ‘makes sense,’ Ontario transportation minister says


Ontario’s transportation minister says the TTC subway system is overcrowded and it “makes sense” to ensure a relief line enters service before a new subway extension to Richmond Hill.

The comments by Jeff Yurek are the closest he has come to acknowledging the primacy of what Toronto officials have said is the city’s top transit priority, and come as the Ontario Progressive Conservative government moves to take ownership of the municipal subway system.

Last year, city council passed a motion declaring that the relief line must be operational before the proposed extension of Line 1 (Yonge-University-Spadina) to Hwy. 7 in York Region enters service.

Yurek didn’t commit to honouring that decision and said there’s no reason why construction of both projects couldn’t proceed at the same time, but signalled he understood the importance of opening the relief line first.

“It makes sense. It makes sense to ensure that the Yonge relief line is up and operational prior to the Yonge extension being built,” he said in an interview at his office last week.

The first phase of the relief line would cost more than $6.8 billion and connect Queen and Osgoode stations downtown with Pape on the eastern end of Line 2 (Bloor-Danforth), taking pressure off of Line 1. Line 1 regularly operates above capacity, and the Yonge extension, which is backed by PC political allies in York Region, would only add more riders.

Yurek is a three-term MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London, and was elevated to the transportation portfolio in Premier Doug Ford’s surprise cabinet shuffle in early November. Before that, the 47-year-old from St. Thomas, Ont., who owns a pharmacy business, was the government’s minister of natural resources.

Although he maintains a residence in his home riding, Yurek said he rides the TTC when he’s in Toronto. “It’s very crowded, especially during the rush hour,” he said. “I really understand the need for improvements or relief.”

Yurek fuelled concerns at city hall last week when, in a speech to the Toronto Region Board of Trade, he spoke about plans to expand the subway network to suburban municipalities in Durham, York and Peel, but made no mention of the relief line.

In the interview, he rejected the idea that the province’s plan to take ownership of the subway amounts to a suburban takeover of the network that would starve the system within Toronto, saying if existing lines become too crowded “that makes the whole system not function to its best potential.”

Yurek also defended the government’s proposal to use the TTC subway to serve the suburbs outside of Toronto. Critics argue the GO Transit network, which is already owned by the province, was designed to serve those regions.

He said that after uploading the subway, the province would use a mix of the TTC and the GO network to serve the entire Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area. GO trains may work best in some contexts, he said, but in others “it makes sense to build subways, either above or below ground.”

The mandate given to the government’s special adviser on the upload plan states that, in addition to the subway system, the province is contemplating taking ownership of “other strategic transit/transportation assets in Toronto.”

Yurek wouldn’t reveal what those additional assets could be.

The minister denied accusations made by the Ontario NDP and the largest TTC workers’ union that the Progressive Conservatives intend to privatize aspects of the subway system. “That’s something that I haven’t looked at,” he said, arguing that the province is simply better positioned than the city to plan, fund and build new subway lines, but would leave operations to the TTC.

The province plans to introduce legislation early next year that would enable the upload, but Yurek said there would be a period of negotiations with the city before any assets are transferred.

On Thursday, the minister sent a letter to Mayor John Tory, seeking his written consent for the city to enter into an information sharing agreement with the province to advance the upload plan. Tory has told the city manager he believes taking part is the best way to protect the city’s interests, but critics on council have said he should stonewall the province and not co-operate in anything that could lead to the province taking over the rail network. Council is expected to debate the issue Dec. 13.

After their election win in June, the Conservatives inherited a host of expensive transit projects from the previous Liberal government. The new regime’s efforts to cut costs to address a $15-billion deficit has led to speculation that some planned new lines will be cancelled, including the $1.2-billion Finch West LRT, which is in the early construction phase and is set to open in northwest Toronto in 2023.

Yurek said the government is conducting a review of all major projects, and did not rule out cancelling Finch.

As of January, Metrolinx had already spent $236.3 million on the light rail line, and ripping up contracts with construction companies and vehicle suppliers would likely result in expensive financial penalties for the government. Yurek said cost would be a factor in the decision on Finch.

“We don’t want to waste any money. We don’t see making decisions that are going to hurt the taxpayer,” he said.

The Conservatives have introduced legislation to give the minister of transportation more direct control over Metrolinx, which was established in 2006 as an arms-length agency of the province. The proposed changes come after the Star revealed in 2017 that then Liberal transportation minister Steven Del Duca interfered in Metrolinx’s planning process to secure approval for two politically sensitive GO stations, including one in his own riding in Vaughan, that weren’t supported by evidence.

Yurek said the location of his hometown, some 90 kilometres from the nearest GO line, made it unlikely he would become embroiled in that kind of controversy.

“You know, that’s the best thing about being from St. Thomas — I’m not going to want a GO station or a subway in my riding,” he said.

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at bspurr@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr


Source link

قالب وردپرس

Alek Minassian, the suspect in the Yonge St. van attack, scheduled to appear in court Thursday


Alek Minassian is expected to appear in a north Toronto court in person Thursday for the first time since May, shortly after his arrest for the Yonge St. van ramming attack that killed 10 people and injured 16 others.

At his last appearance in September, by video link from jail, the Crown said it was asking the attorney general to waive Minassian’s preliminary hearing and proceed by direct indictment to Ontario Superior Court.

Van attack suspect Alek Minassian, seen here in a photograph from his LinkedIn page. Eight of the victims of the attack were women, ranging from a 22-year-old student to a 94-year-old retiree.
Van attack suspect Alek Minassian, seen here in a photograph from his LinkedIn page. Eight of the victims of the attack were women, ranging from a 22-year-old student to a 94-year-old retiree.  (LinkedIn)

The 25-year-old faces 10 counts of first-degree murder and 16 counts of attempted murder for allegedly driving a rented cargo van along a busy stretch of Yonge St., between Sheppard and Finch Aves., mid-afternoon on April 23.

Eight of the victims were women, ranging from a 22-year-old student to a 94-year-old retiree.

Since his arrest, Minassian has been cited as an example of a man accused of a high-profile who had used the internet to connect with other like-minded individuals.

Before the massacre, Minassian’s Facebook account posted a cryptic comment about an “incel rebellion.” The term incel, short for “involuntarily celibate,” is used online to refer to men who lack sex with women.

Minassian, who is from Richmond Hill, turns 26 on Saturday.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter covering crime and courts. Follow her on Twitter: @powellbetsy


Source link

قالب وردپرس

The politicians who want to extend the Yonge subway should try riding it during rush hour


The Yonge subway line is full.

There are statistics that demonstrate this, of course: the capacity of the Yonge subway line is 28,000 riders in one direction per hour, and according to the TTC during the peak hour there are more riders than that.

But often when some stats geek in the sports world starts talking about analytics, someone shouts “just watch the games.” In this case, you can skip the math if you just ride the trains.

Say you go out to Bloor subway at 8:30 a.m. You may find, on the platform, that you are in danger of being alternately trampled or shoved off the edge of the platform. When trains arrive, they will be too full to allow anyone to board. Two trains, three trains, four trains, more trains may pass before you are able to get on. And when you do manage to squeeze on, you may soon wish you hadn’t, positioned as you are in aggressively intimate contact with your fellow citizens — cheek-to-cheek, elbow-to-stomach, nose-to-armpit for the rattling, lurching ride to work.

You can repeat the experiment further north — at Eglinton or often even at Sheppard, and still find the trains overcrowded on arrival.

The Yonge subway line is full.

If and when the signal improvements that could add up to 28 per cent more capacity are implemented (they’re on hold and may not work out as planned), all of that new space will likely be absorbed pretty much right away by latent demand now kept away by overcrowding and by the riders being funnelled into the system by new lines soon. The Eglinton Crosstown, for instance, will open in the early 2020s, and funnel riders from across the city onto Line 1. The Bloor extension in Scarborough, which council and the province seem determined to build, is justified on the premise that it will attract thousands of new riders, very many of whom will be looking to transfer to the Yonge line.

Still, a certain kind of politician has seemingly no transit ideas except to try to feed still more riders onto the line.

The city councillors of north Scarborough, forever trying to revive a Sheppard subway extension further east that would feed more riders onto Yonge.

Premier Doug Ford, who loves that Sheppard idea and also suggests to crowds in Pickering that one day the Bloor line might come out to serve them.

And then there are the politicians in Vaughan and Richmond Hill and Markham, clamouring to have the Yonge line itself extended up north into the 905.

Most recently it was Frank Scarpitti of Markham, urging the province forward last week.

Now, this extension may make sense in the future. But that future has to include a completed relief line — so called because it would relieve the congestion on the Yonge line. The most recent versions of a plan for it run from the downtown core along Queen St. to east of the Don River, where it would head north around Pape and continue up to at least the Danforth. The smart versions of the plan continue up to Eglinton, through Don Mills, until it meets the Sheppard subway line.

You build that, and it will be a route into downtown for many of those currently coming from the east who could transfer at Pape instead of Yonge — not just from the Danforth line, but at Eglinton and points north, too.

Then we can talk about extending the existing lines further.

Scarpitti said he didn’t necessarily think the relief line would be necessary. “If they have some issues with the relief line, we don’t want that to stall the Yonge subway,” he told the Star.

See, the thing is, the issue most likely to stall the relief line is that the premier decides a new line into downtown Toronto sounds too elite for his liking and decides to build “905 subways” for the people first.

In the morning, of course, any riders up in the 905 boarding the new extension would be the first ones on, so perhaps they and their political representatives don’t care that once they were seated and the trains rolled south, the cars would be too full to fit Toronto commuters onto them. The TTC has in fact modelled a scenario where the Yonge line is extended before SmartTrack and the relief line are built and it shows almost 9,000 fewer riders transferring onto the Yonge line at Bloor than do today because “these passengers have been driven away by overcrowding.”

You can imagine that would be part of the appeal to certain supporters of Doug Ford — all those elites downtown can’t get on the subway! Let them ride their bikes that they love so much, suckers!

But of course an overwhelming percentage of those trying to transfer at Bloor are coming in across the city from Scarborough and other alleged points of Ford Nation.

The relief line is necessary, as soon as it can be built. It won’t somehow serve downtowners — or won’t primarily do so. Instead it will provide a faster, more comfortable ride into the city for thousands of daily riders from the north and east of the city, and at the same time allow us to consider ways to better serve further-flung riders by making it possible to contemplate extending the lines we have now.

I think this is clear enough if you look at the reports and research and analysis. But if you just ride the trains, it’s obvious. Unfortunately, too few of the politicians holding sway ride our trains. Which is fine, because the trains are full without them.

But that’s why it’s all the more important for Toronto’s politicians to be loud and clear about what our priorities are.

Edward Keenan is a columnist based in Toronto covering urban affairs. Follow him on Twitter: @thekeenanwire


Source link

قالب وردپرس