Loblaw Companies Ltd. is reviewing its decision to sue the driver of a van involved in a fatal crash that killed the driver’s wife and seven high-school basketball players, known as the “Boys in Red,” near Bathurst, N.B. two years ago.
The statement of claim filed in the N.B. Court of Queen’s Bench against Wayne Lord and Bathurst Van Inc., the not-for-profit company which operated the van involved in the crash, has since been withdrawn, according to Loblaws. Now the grocery giant is trying to determine how the decision to seek reparations was made in the first place.
“We are currently reviewing the matter to better understand how this occurred and will take action to ensure appropriate checks and balances are in place to make sure future decisions are not made in isolation,” Inge van den Berg, Loblaws’ senior vice president, corporate affairs, said in an e-mail to Canadian Lawyer InHouse.
The crash made international news in 2008 when the van Lord was driving slipped on a snow- and slush-covered highway and collided with an Atlantic Wholesalers Ltd. truck towing a Loblaws trailer. Lord was driving the basketball players home from a tournament in Moncton on Jan. 12, 2008.
The statement of claim filed on Dec. 22, 2009 sought $40,667.86 for “costs associated with remedial action taken” at the site of the crash and $847.50 for cleanup and emptying of the tractor-trailer’s fuel tanks.
News of the claim prompted outrage, especially in Bathurst, with residents telling several media outlets they would stop shopping at Loblaws. Two Facebook sites were created attracting more than 700 followers in a matter of hours, with several of them expressing anger at the grocery giant’s decision.
On Jan. 8, Allan Leighton, president and deputy chairman of Loblaws gave a statement to the CBC, the news outlet that broke the story, to advise the lawsuit was being withdrawn.
A copy of the statement has been forwarded to Canadian Lawyer InHouse.
“We thoroughly apologize for the alarm and concern caused by the statement of claim filed against Wayne Lord and Bathurst Van Inc. and we will not seek further action,” it stated.
“While it is normal legal practice to look for reimbursement, this decision was clearly made without consideration of the specifics of this accident. We would also like to thank all our customers that voiced their concern regarding our decision, allowing us to reconsider our actions.”
Bathurst Mayor Stephen Brunet told the Fredericton Daily Gleaner he had spoken with Leighton about the lawsuit.
“I spoke to the president and he apologized to the citizens of Bathurst for the stress called by the lawsuit,” Brunet said. “I found it a very honourable thing to do.”