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Heartache lingers for Wildcats despite $36 million settlement

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Heartache lingers for Wildcats despite $36 million settlement

On January 29, 2005, 19 players, coaches and family members of the Windsor Wildcats, an Under 21 female Canadian hockey team boarded a Coach Canada bus in Windsor, Ontario for a trip that would take them into Rochester, New York for a hockey tournament. The events that would follow later that day would go down as one of the most memorable and tragic bus accidents in New York State history.

Coach Canada assigned new driver, 24 year old Ryan Comfort, who had virtually no bus driving experience and minimal training to the charter trip. Comfort had slept a total of two hours in the 24 hours leading up to the crash. As he procceded South on route 390, he lost control of the bus and it barreled off of the roadway directly into a 70 foot tractor trailer which was illegally parked on the shoulder. By all indications, Comfort had fallen asleep at the wheel. The tremendous impact between the vehicles sheered the bus in half and killed three passengers on the bus, team coach Rick Edwards, his 13 year old son Brian Edwards and one of the player’s mothers, Cathy Roach, as well as the tractor trailer driver, Ernest Zeiset, and seriously injured numerous others.

THE PASSENGERS OF THAT BUS HAVE LIVED WITH THE MEMORIES OF THE TRAGIC ACCIDENT FOR THE LAST SIX YEARS, BUT HOPEFULLY WITH THE SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION OF THIS CASE, THEY CAN GAIN SOME CLOSURE AND MOVE ON TO THE NEXT CHAPTER OF THEIR LIVES.” – WINDSOR STAR, CANADA

Marc Albert represented ten (10) of the victims of the accident, including the Edwards family that lost husband/ father Rick and his 13 year old son Brian in the crash. lawsuits were subsequently filed on behalf of the victims of the crash against the owners and operators of both the bus and the tractor-trailer. A liability trial was held in the Supreme Court of livingston County during which, the defendants stipulated to a liability split of 90% to the bus and 10% to the tractor trailer. Before damages could be assessed, however, a critical issue remained – whether New York or Canadian damages law would be applied to the case.

The choice of law issue in the case was of the utmost importance because in Canada, there is a cap on pain and suffering damages in the amount of $326,000. There is no such cap in New York. Because the vast majority of the plaintiffs’ claims had value well in excess of the cap amount, the decision of which law to apply in the case was going to have a profound effect on the ultimate measure of damages that would be received by the plaintiffs. In a groundbreaking decision, New York’s highest court, The Court of Appeals ultimately determined that New York law would apply to the case, thereby allowiwng the plaintiffs to recover the full measure of their damages instead of being “capped” at a completely inadequate amount.

With this ruling in place, Marc Albert tried the first damages case on behalf of three of the victims of the accident whose injuries were somewhat minor in comparison with the other passengers of the bus. The trial resulted in a $2.25 million verdict by a livingston County jury and led directly to the parties discussing a global settlement of all the cases. led by Marc Albert, the parties would ultimately enter into global settlement of the case for the total sum of $36 Million that concluded what had been a six year litigation.

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