Miranda Biletski vs. University of Regina, October 2017 SK QB, Regina 1770/2007: $9,000,000 Award

Biletski dove into a pool from competition starting blocks at the university during a swim club practice in June 2005. The then-16-year-old hit the bottom and fractured her cervical vertebrae, leaving her a quadriplegic.

This case was unique in that it was a jury award of more than $9 Million in damages. The plaintiff, Miss Biletski, was 16 years old at the time of the June 06, 2005 diving accident which resulted in a fracture of her cervical vertebrae rendering her quadriplegic.

Biletski — the first woman on Canada’s wheelchair rugby team — can move her arms and shoulders, but has limited use of her hands. She played with the largely male Team Canada rugby squad at world championships in 2010 and 2014, and at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where the team placed fourth.

The $9 Million in damages consisted largely of pecuniary damages as follows:

Cost of care: $6,474,585.00.

This was litigated as follows $514,584.00 in costs of care agreed to by both counsel, $250,000.00 for personal residence modifications agreed to by counsel, and $5,710,000.00 cost of future care ultimately awarded by the jury which was disputed.

Loss of future income and earning capacity $1,512,000.00.

General Damages for pain and suffering, inconvenience, and loss of enjoyment of life were $295,000.00.

The case is also noteworthy for the large loss of marriage, interdependence benefits award of $879,000.00, which is often difficult to get from a judge alone.

Bottom line is counsel must be skilled in the unique strategy of jury trials to maximize the compensation award, especially in Alberta with very stingy judge alone awards. Historically, Alberta juries have been stingy as well, but in the hands of skilled and experienced counsel a jury can be made to see that the large part of this award is not a “windfall” to the victim as the over $6 Million for cost of care will be spent by the victim to put her back to where she should be without the defendant’s negligence.  Put it another, way the victim will have to spend all the $6 Million on care-givers over the years due to her terrible injuries. This will not leave anything for her by way of compensation to now have to live as a quadriplegic.

General damages for pain and suffering is the only part of this jury award that is for the benefit of the victim to offset, as far as money can, the pain and suffering she must now live with for life as a quadriplegic.  The general damages awarded were only $295,000.00 as the jury was constrained by a Supreme Court of Canada cap on general damages for pain and suffering.

Unfortunately, Ms Biletski’s 12 year litigation ordeal since the accident continues, as of December 17, 2017 the University of Regina has appealed the decision to the Court of Appeal arguing that claims made by Biletski’s lawyer and the lawyer for the Piranhas Swim Club played to the jury’s sympathies and were inflammatory.

In Handel Law Firm’s opinion, the appeal will not be successful as Miranda Biletski’s lawyer only stated the terrible and jarring facts of how it is to live as a quadriplegic – the fact that the facts are harrowing to hear and understand does not make them inflammatory.