A Saint John judge has set a precedent for how coroner’s inquests will be conducted in the future by overturning a decision made by New Brunswick’s chief coroner in the Serena Perry case.
Justice Hugh McLellan has given standing to lawyers for the Saint John Regional Hospital and two doctors at the inquest into the death of the 22 year-old woman.
This means the lawyers will be able to call their own witnesses and cross-examine those called by others, although they will not be able to make final submissions.
Perry's body was found on Feb. 14, 2012, in the hospital's amphitheatre after she’d gone there with a fellow patient, a teenage male from the psychiatric unit.
The decision to give the hospital and doctors standing sets a long overdue precedent, says lawyer John Barry, who represents the Horizon Health Network.
"We can expand the evidence. We'll have the ability to make sure that all of the points are made. That was a primary concern," Barry said.
In the past, coroner's juries frequently didn't hear the full story, Barry said.
The coroner’s inquest into Perry’s death is set for March. It will examine how the Saint John hospital and its staff handled things the night Perry died.
Lawyers for the coroner's office are not commenting on the decision but are expected to make further submissions at a court hearing March 10.
Early into their investigation of Perry's death, police announced they had a suspect. No charges were ever laid, however.
Two weeks ago, Serena Perry's mother, Rose, launched a lawsuit against the hospital.
"Once justice is here, hey, maybe my heart might get back together. Maybe I can start my life again," she said at the time.
Rose Perry had no comment following Friday's decision.