Statements of Defense have never been based on the reality of a specific motor vehicle collision. They are meant as a “catch all” to cover all the bases in case the legal proceedings turn in an unexpected direction. Persons who ought to know better appear to be unfamiliar with these legal proceedings or are using the various media to incite the public into a frenzy.
These actions are with respect to a tragic fatal pedestrian collision that occurred on the grounds of Western University on October 7, 2015. Andrea Christidis was reportedly walking on the sidewalk of a curve on Lambton Drive of the University campus when she was struck by a Volkswagen driven by Jared DeJong. DeJong was later convicted of impaired driving causing death.
As the civil trial began some news media caught onto the contents of the Statement of Defense of Dejong. The Statement claimed that Christidis was at fault for being impaired and “jaywalking”. It was reported that similar notions were brought forth by the other defendants, the University Students’ Council and Western University.
If the opposing Statement of Claim was examined similar unsupported claims would exist with respect to the actions of Dejong as well as the other co-defendants. As bazaar as these statements may appear to the average person, this is how the legal process unfolds, and has done for the several decades that I have observed it. Several entities are using these motions to set alarm and dismay among the public who are unaware of these standard legal proceedings, blaming the specific lawyers for a process that is standard procedure in civil litigation. The Toronto lawyer representing Western University, Mark Harrington, has since been “dismissed” from the case.
Whether you agree with how legal documents unfold before the courts or not, this is how it is done, and has been done, not just in the Dejong-Christidis matter, but in all civil matters in Ontario. Blaming and attacking the specific lawyers for these standard procedures makes no sense unless you blame all lawyers for these procedures.
Appropriately Dale Carruthers of the London Free Press wrote an article allowing Mr. Harrington an opportunity to defend his actions. Mr. Harrington was quoted as stating:
“It’s an absolutely standard defence and I’ve done hundreds of wrongful death cases over my career,” Toronto lawyer Mark Harrington said of the untested allegations included in the statement of defence.
So lawyers have to plead every contingency, regardless of whether it doesn’t seem nice, because if we don’t plead it, we can’t ask the questions.”
Mr. Harrington followed a procedure that he must follow as part of the legal process that was not created by him. The entrance of emotion into the trial process has never been a good idea. There are many past instances where innocent persons have been victimized by uncontrolled public hysteria. It should be a warning to all that before you lay you head in cement, give it a shake, as those actions may have permanent consequences.