A six-person jury has awarded more than $9 million to a woman who had a tragic diving accident that left her paralyzed.
Twelve years ago, 16-year-old Miranda Biletski dove into the University of Regina’s swimming pool, breaking her neck and instantly becoming a quadriplegic.
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Biletski’s lawyer, Alan McIntyre, argued the university was negligent and the pool wasn’t safe.
The university’s defence lawyer, Erin Kleisinger, countered the pool met the standards of the day and blamed Biletski and the Piranhas Summer Swim Club for the accident.
The swim club’s lawyer, Reg Watson, said there was no written agreement between the university and the swim club that contained an indemnity provision, which would require the club to compensate the university for liability or loss.
After two days of deliberations, the jury found the university fully responsible for the accident.
“When the jury came in, [Biletski] was weeping softly, and then she said that when she heard she wasn’t to blame and the club wasn’t to blame, she said she didn’t even focus on the numbers that came shortly thereafter,” McIntyre said.
The damages cover personal residence modifications, cost of care items and loss of future income earnings, among other items. The money will help cover Biletski’s future care needs and improve her quality of life, McIntyre said.
“What it tells us is that she should not want for anything. She has struggled mightily, her courage is amazing, and she’s been surviving on a small amount of money,” McIntyre said.
“On the one hand, we have a girl who’s 16 and in Grade 10, and on the other side, we have a swim club with 40 members and volunteers. In the middle, we have the university which is an organization that has many resources, and it’s a little frightening,” McIntyre said. “So in that sense, it’s both scary and exhilarating, especially when the jury sees it the way it did.”
McIntyre said Biletski is relieved the case is over, although it’s possible the university will appeal the decision.
“Typically with cases this large and this much money involved, an appeal is almost inevitable,” he said. “But there doesn’t appear to be an error of law here, which is the fundamental keystone to proceeding to a valid appeal.”
In a statement, the university said it recognizes the tragic nature of this incident.
“We respect the legal process, and, at this time, will not comment on the court’s decision other than to say that we will take time to review it and determine what, if any, steps may be taken as a result,” the statement reads.
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