Saskatchewan's highest court denies university's appeal in swimming accident

By The Canadian Press
May 24, 2019 - 1:02pm

REGINA — The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal has rejected a bid by the University of Regina to overturn a jury's verdict that found the school liable after a teen was paralyzed diving into the university's pool.

Miranda Biletski, a Paralympian, was a 16-year-old member of the Regina Piranha Swim Club in 2005 when she dove into the pool from competition starting blocks during a practice and hit the bottom.

The university had argued at trial in October 2017 that the pool's depth and the height of the starting blocks met Swimming Canada guidelines, and that Biletski did a bad dive.

She was awarded more than $9 million in damages, plus another $1.5 million for such things as pre-judgment interest and a claim by the Saskatchewan Minister of Health.

The university had argued before the Appeal Court that comments made by Biletski's lawyer, as well as the lawyer for the swim club, played to the jury's sympathies and were inflammatory.

A university spokesman says the school respects the court's decision.

"We are still reviewing the judgment with our legal counsel and our insurer to determine next steps, including possible terms and timing of payment," Paul Dederick said in an emailed statement Friday.

"The university recognizes the ... unalterable impact on Ms. Biletski and her family. We wish her the best moving forward."

The Appeal Court judge said Biletski and the swim club are both entitled to their costs in court.

The trial heard that the pool depth of 1.2 metres was laid out in the tiles, but at issue was whether there was enough water in the pool.

Court was told that the person responsible for pool maintenance only added water one time in the two months leading up to Biletski's accident.

The university filed its own lawsuit against the swim club to cover damages if the jury found the university liable. It said swim club coaches made the decision that the water level was safe and to use the starting blocks.

Reg Watson, lawyer for the Piranhas Summer Swim Club, said at the time of the trial that the club never signed a contract with an indemnity clause that would make it liable.

Watson also took issue with the university attempting to shift the blame to the club. He said the university is in charge of the facility and knew how people were using the pool.

The jury did not find the swim club liable.

Biletski fractured her cervical vertebrae during the dive.

She would go on to become the first woman on Canada's wheelchair rugby team. She played with the Team Canada squad at world championships in 2010 and 2014, and at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where the team placed fourth.

(CTV Regina, The Canadian Press)


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