City faces legal action against over train-car collision

NANAIMO – City one of several defendants named in lawsuits surrounding a 2009 crash between a train and car.

The City of Nanaimo is one of several defendants named in lawsuits arising from an Oct. 14, 2009 crash between a Southern Railway of Vancouver Island Dayliner and a car  turning from the southbound lane of Highway 19A onto Dorman Road.

The 44-year-old driver, Roseane Perreault and her common-law partner Lyle Hall, 49, of Harewood, the front passenger, died at the scene.

Their son, Andrew Hall, 14 at the time, was airlifted to B.C. Children’s Hospital with injuries to his spine, head and abdomen.

A Transportation Safety Board report, released in September 2010, found a substandard design of the railway crossing was partly to blame for a crash.

The automated warning bells and lights were functioning properly at the time of the crash, but the lights and vehicle approaches to the crossing were below modern standards.

Peter Hickli, head of the Transportation Safety Board investigation, said the warning lights should have been angled to be more visible to drivers turning off the highway.

There should have also been a flashing advanced warning sign on the highway, warning drivers of approaching trains, and a deceleration lane enabling southbound vehicles on the highway to slow down more before turning onto Dorman Road.

A lawsuit, filed by the province against the City of Nanaimo under the Health Care Costs Recovery Act last month, claims the city failed to ensure the intersection was properly designed, constructed, inspected and maintained; and it failed to warn the public of the dangerous and hazardous nature of the intersection at the railway crossing.

The claim is for past and future health costs of health care services in relation to Andrew Hall’s injuries.

Jeremy Martin, legal counsel for the city, said the act allows the province to try and recover costs it has incurred for an injured person who has been in hospital.

“The province can pursue any parties it feels is responsible for causing the accident to repay those hospital fees,” he said. “But this most recent action hasn’t actually been served on the city and until that happens, it won’t proceed. The province is a defendant in two other actions because they are responsible for the highway and designed and constructed the railway crossing.”

Nanaimo Mayor John Ruttan said he was surprised and a little disappointed the province launched the action against the city.

“We considered the province to be a partner in improving the safety standards at that particular intersection,” he said.

The city, Southern Railway of Vancouver Island and the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure shared the cost of upgrading the intersection in October 2010 by installing additional high-intensity flashing warning lights and train-activated message boards.

Andrew Hall is the plaintiff in a 2010 lawsuit against defendants Roseane Maria Perreault, the Province of B.C., the Island Corridor Foundation, the City of Nanaimo, Southern Railway of Vancouver Island, Via Railway and B. MacLowich, the train engineer.

He is seeking compensation for personal injuries suffered as a result of the accident.

Another lawsuit, against the same defendants, was filed in 2010 by Bridget Hall under the Family Compensation Act, seeking compensation related to the death of Lyle Hall for the benefit of his sons Andrew Hall and Shawn Hall.

Martin said those claims are still before the courts.

“They have been around for a while but are slow to proceed,” he said. “The main thing is the province is responsible for Highway 19A. The city has no jurisdiction over that highway.”

In a written response to Bridget Hall’s claims, the city admitted Lyle Hall was killed while riding as passenger in a vehicle being driven by Roseane Perreault when the vehicle was struck by a Via Rail train,  but it is not an owner of the railway corridor at Dorman Road and Southern Railway is responsible for the design, construction, inspection and maintenance of the crossing and its warning systems.


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