CTV News: Movement builds to allow wrongful death suits in B.C.

As seen on CTV News Vancouver by Kent Molgat, 23rd September 2011.

Stew Tuningley, 74, was killed by a pickup truck while collecting garbage on a West Kelowna road in July 2011.

People in West Kelowna are hoping to honour the death of an elderly volunteer killed by a pickup truck this summer with a wrongful death act allowing grieving families to sue for loss of life.

In July, a pickup truck strayed from Shannon Lake Road, striking and killing 74-year-old Stew Tuningley as he cleaned up trash.

His widow Vera describes him as a wonderful husband.

“He was a very loving, kind, supportive husband and the same as a grandfather, treasured by his grandchildren,” she told CTV News. “There’s a big void where he was,”

Friends say he was a tireless volunteer, as well.

“The church, the golf club and the Lions Club — he helped them all very considerably. There were 400 people at his funeral. It’s a great loss to the community,” said Ian Reid of the Westbank Lions Club.

But if family members want to sue the 34-year-old driver of the pickup truck, Tuningley’s volunteerism doesn’t mean much, because he was retired and wasn’t earning an income.

The Trial Lawyers Association of B.C. says this is an example of the kind of case courts need to start looking at differently.

“There’s no compensation for the loss of the human being, for the loss to the society and the pain and suffering side of losing somebody,” lawyer Paul Hergott said. “There’s no accountability.”

The association will be rallying Sunday in Tuningley’s name for the province to adopt a wrongful death act, hoping that with more accountability there might be less carelessness behind the wheel.

“These needless crashes — they need to stop,” Hergott said.

Police are still investigating the cause of the crash that killed Tuningley, but criminal charges aren’t expected against the driver. More likely, he’ll be charged with a violation of the Motor Vehicle Act.

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About the BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society

‘In Their Name’ is the campaign of ‘The BC Wrongful Death Law Reform Society’ – a BC registered non-profit organization comprised of volunteer families who have lost a loved one to wrongful death in BC and were denied access to justice. In response to the biggest human rights issue facing the province today, our goal is to modernize British Columbia’s antiquated wrongful death legislation, which predates confederation (1846). Under current legislation, the value of a human life is measured only by the deceased’s future lost income, so long as they had dependents.

As a result of the province’s antiquated law, access to justice has been denied to the families of the wrongfully killed who do not meet this discriminatory criteria. This has affected especially vulnerable groups, namely children, seniors, the disabled, and anyone without dependents when they are killed by the negligent or intentional acts of another.

BC is presently the last of all the provinces, yet to have undertaken this critical legislative modernization to allow for dignity, value, and protections for all its citizens under the law.

When it’s ‘free’ to kill in BC, wrongdoers are not held accountable. This lack of general deterrence holds the province back in terms of incentivizing innovation of safety measures and protocols to prevent wrongful deaths in the first place.

Here’s How You Can Get Involved…

The Premier of British Columbia, David Eby, is responsible for the modernization of BC’s wrongful death laws. Our Society provided David Eby with the drafted ‘Wrongful Death Accountability Act’ when he was acting as the Attorney General for British Columbia for 6 years between 2017-2022. The new Attorney General, Niki Sharma, also shares responsibility as she is the Minister responsible for the ‘Family Compensation Act’ – the current guiding piece of legislation that the civil courts must follow in cases of wrongful death. Minister Sharma receives feedback from the regional ‘Members of the Legislative Assembly’ (MLAs) and follows orders from the Premier, David Eby, who is ultimately responsible for modernization.

Reform is presently at a standstill, as the BC NDP government does not presently view access to justice for the surviving family members of the wrongfully killed as a priority in this province. This is despite the fact that the families behind our Society have been fighting for modernization for over two decades. And despite the fact that all other provinces, including the Yukon, have already modernized in most cases long ago.

The only way to move this forward is by creating massive public awareness and outcry for legislative modernization. Only under the scrutiny of the public and the media will our politicians be forced to take this necessary, and long overdue action.

How many more people will need to die from the same preventable wrongful actions before our politicians will do their job?

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