The family of the student who was killed by a drunk driver in 2015 is suing Western and the USC for negligently serving alcohol to the driver at The Spoke.
The Gazette found the Statement of Claim filed publicly at the London courthouse.
In October 2015, Andrea Christidis was struck and killed by a car operated by Jared DeJong, a then 24-year-old London man. At the time, 18-year-old Christidis, a first-year health sciences student was walking home from a study group near Talbot College.
In 2016, a judge sentenced DeJong to five years in prison with a 10-year driving ban.
The family filed a civil suit in October 2017, claiming the University Students’ Council, Western University, DeJong and his father are liable for Christidis' death and its consequent damages.
On the night of the collision, DeJong drank at The Spoke for three to four hours; the family alleges The Spoke was negligent in serving DeJong alcohol up to or beyond intoxication, allowing him to leave unimpeded to his car and failing to notify police he was driving drunk. At the time of the incident, DeJong had over twice the legal limit of blood-alcohol content.
The suit cites provincial legislation which dictates liquor cannot be sold to someone who is, or appears to be, intoxicated. Bars have been held liable in Canada for injury caused by their intoxicated patrons.
Further, the suit claims the bar failed to exercise “due care and skill” in its operation and that it did not properly implement a system to train servers about the dangers posed by drunk patrons.
The USC declined to comment on the proceedings due to legal reasons. Both the family’s and the administration’s representatives did not respond to requests for comment.
None of these allegations have been proven in court.
The $7-million figure is constituted by three separate claims. The largest is a $5-million claim to compensate for the death of Christidis' father — which the family claims was caused by the incident, causing the family a loss of income. The other two figures are $1 million asks which compensate for psychological trauma and distress that Christidis' family experienced after her death. The suit also seeks the plaintiff's legal costs.
Rande Kostal, a Western law professor, said cases like these hinge on whether the bar's employees meet a reasonable standard of care while serving. Individual Spoke employees could be brought under oath; though they will not necessarily be held liable.
Civil cases like this are often settled, and the settled figure can be lower than the original ask. As the plaintiffs have made their pleadings, it's anticipated that the defendants are each drafting a document called a "Statement of Defence," which is a formal reply to the plaintiff's claims.
After this point, trials like these enter the "discovery" period, in which witnesses are interviewed under oath.
Kostal said the plaintiff's claim that the father's death and the ensuing financial losses caused by the incident will be more difficult to prove. He added the whole process could be prolonged if it is not settled.
"The wheels of civil justice in Ontario turn very slowly," he said. "This could take many years to complete."
Correction (3:11 p.m., September 15): The month of Andrea Christidis's death has been updated from September to October in paragraph three. The Gazette deeply apologizes for this error.