Class action lawsuit filed against Canadian province in moose-vehicle crashes

January 17, 2011

Uncategorized

The majestic moose is 1/3 of the former Canadian marketing brand being – of course – Mounties, mountains and moose. In a 2006 article in the august journal Canadian Geographic, the moose is properly recognized as ‘a sexy iconic figure’ of Canada’s wilderness for over 300 years.

Alas, this noble beast is at the centre and in the crosshairs of a class action lawsuit.

In all fairness to the injured plaintiffs, there is nothing funny about colliding with and getting crushed by a wild animal which weighs upwards of 1000 lbs.

Hugh George and Ben Bellows have filed a class action lawsuit against the Newfoundland and Labrador government over moose-vehicle accidents. George suffered left hemiparesis with complete loss of his left arm while Bellows is a quadriplegic after separate collisions with moose. Both men are confined to a wheelchair.

In collisions at highway speeds, a car’s bumper and front grill typically will break a moose’s legs, causing the body of the moose to clear the car’s hood and deliver the bulk of the body weight into the windshield, crushing the windshield, front roof support beams and anyone in the front seat. Such collisions may result in fatality, severe head injury, spinal cord injury, and severe trauma.

The government is named as the defendant because it brought moose to the island a century ago as a source of meat and, in the virtual absence of predators, controls the moose population through the issuance of hunting tags.

George’s and Bellows’ lawyer, Ches Crosbie estimates that there are approximately 700-800 moose-vehicle collisions and perhaps two or three deaths per year. Crosbie believes that greater government efforts could slash the injury rate in half.

The class action alleges wildlife management practices have allowed the moose population to reach between 120,000 and 200,000 animals. Less than half-a-million people live in the province. 

The claim states that moose-vehicle accidents are no act of God but acts of government for which the defendant is legally responsible for the damage caused. It states that the province is negligent in its management of moose and highway safety. The statement of claim explains that certain preventative or mitigation measures could have been taken such as fencing, controlling vegetation along roadsides, increasing moose hunting, a spring cull, and a consistent awareness program.

It is noteworthy that the claim alleges that the government is ‘strictly liable for the conduct of the abnormally hazardous activity of introducing and managing a non-native invasive species.’

Invoking post-9/11 language targeting our nation’s troubled iconic brand, Crosbie said, ‘We live under effectively, a reign of terror from these animals which haunt the highways, particularly at night. Our loved ones at home live in fear until they somehow know we have arrived at our destination.’

Attorney-General Felix Collins said he was ‘limited’ in what he could say as the matter is before the courts but did disclose that the ‘Provincial Government is certainly confident in its moose management strategies and highway maintenance programs.’

None of these allegations have been proven. The class action lawsuit has not been certified by the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Here’s a pdf of the statement of claim – George and Bellows v Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Newfoundland and Labrador

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