The drunk driver who killed a student on campus in 2015 has filed in court that The Spoke, where he drank for hours before the incident, is partly responsible for the death.
In October of that year, Jared DeJong struck and killed 18-year-old Andrea Christidis on Lambton Drive, near Talbot College. Following a public criminal trial, DeJong pleaded guilty to drunk driving causing death and received a five-year sentence and a 10-year driving ban.
Two years after Christidis’ death, which prompted a campus-wide mourning, her family filed suit against DeJong, as well as the University Students’ Council, which runs The Spoke.
The family claims The Spoke negligently served DeJong alcohol up to or beyond intoxication and failed to properly train their staff to handle drunk patrons. With these claims, they have sought damages totalling $7 million from the USC, DeJong and his father.
If true, The Spoke, not just DeJong, would have violated the law.
DeJong’s new filing, his first appearance in the suit, agrees with the family’s claims that the bar is liable for Christidis’ death. But he also claims he has no knowledge of whether The Spoke served him alcohol.
This claim clashes with an agreed statement of facts from the criminal trial, which says he drank at The Spoke for three to four hours. The Spoke’s security company also said DeJong drank there when the USC brought them into the suit. His blood-alcohol content was over double the legal limit at the time of the incident.
In their own court filing, the USC denied even serving DeJong alcohol and similarly denied or pleaded ignorance to all of the family’s other allegations. And they went on the offensive, claiming Christidis was partly responsible for her own death.
If the court finds the family’s allegations true, Western University's quintessential bar would be implicated in one of campus’ most tragic moments in recent memory.
Representation for all parties did not respond to requests for comment; the USC declined to comment, as the suit is still underway.
DeJong, like the USC, filed that Christidis herself was negligent. He claims Christidis was intoxicated, not watching traffic and not wearing her glasses when she crossed the street and was struck by his father’s Volkswagen, which witnesses estimated was travelling 90 to 100 km/hr in a 20 km/hr zone.
“On the occasion in question, she was the author of her own misfortune,” reads his claim, a verbatim refrain of what the USC said in their own response to the family’s claims.
No claims made in this early stage have been proven or disproven by the court.
One by one, parties respond
The suit began when the Christidis family filed a statement of claim to the Ontario Superior Court in London. In it, they allege the bar made a series of mistakes the night of Oct. 7, which stretch beyond letting DeJong become intoxicated to letting him leave unimpeded and not informing the police when he did so.
They say The Spoke failed to exercise “due care and skill” and did not implement a system that properly trained its employees about the dangers posed by drunk patrons. Their filing cites provincial legislation, which dictates liquor cannot be sold to someone who is, or appears to be, intoxicated.
The family alleges that, as a result, they suffered harm that extended beyond Christidis’ death — including the death of her father, which they argue was the result of his heightened stress following the incident.
Originally, the family sued Western. The USC was added to the suit after Western informed the family’s lawyers it was the student government who ran the bar. Western and the USC have been filing their claims together, represented by the same law firm, but Western has since asked to be removed from the suit.
After the USC’s forceful reply, DeJong’s claims became the third major step in the suit.
The suit’s next phase will be discovery, when evidence is submitted and witnesses provide testimony. It is possible The Spoke employees will be brought to testify.