Loblaws is dropping its lawsuit against the driver of the van involved in a crash that killed seven Bathurst High School basketball players and his wife in January 2008 after word of the court action triggered a public outcry.
Atlantic Wholesalers Ltd. and Loblaws Inc. had filed a statement of claim on Dec. 22 against Wayne Lord and Bathurst Van Inc., which owned the 15-passenger van that collided with their transport truck.
But in a written statement issued to CBC on Friday, Allan Leighton, president and deputy chairman of Loblaw Companies Ltd., said the company had reconsidered the suit filed in a Bathurst, N.B., court.
Statement by Allan Leighton, president and deputy chairman, Loblaw Companies Ltd.
"We thoroughly apologize for the alarm and concern caused by the statement of claim filed against Wayne Lord and Bathurst Vans Inc. and we will not seek further action.
While it is normal legal practice to look for reimbursement, this decision was clearly made without consideration of the specifics of this accident.
We would also like to thank all our customers that voiced their concern regarding our decision, allowing us to reconsider our actions."
"We thoroughly apologize for the alarm and concern caused by the statement of claim filed against Wayne Lord and Bathurst Vans Inc. and we will not seek further action," he said.
"While it is normal legal practice to look for reimbursement from the parties deemed to be at fault, this decision was clearly made without consideration of the specifics of this accident."
The news of the claim prompted commenters to CBC to call for a boycott of Loblaws, with many urging readers to call the company and express their concern. In a matter of hours, three groups protesting the suit also appeared on the social networking site Facebook, with a combined membership of nearly 600 by about 7 p.m. AT.
As one reader wrote, "Good job corporate Canada — trample all over those who have lost so much already."
Leighton's statement acknowledged that the company had heard those comments.
"We would also like to thank all our customers that voiced their concern regarding our decision, allowing us to reconsider our actions."
Jason Gilmore posted this comment on the Facebook site after Loblaws called off the lawsuit: "Can't believe it even came this far. Luckily someone came to their senses."
Linda Knowles suggested the boycott should continue anyway, "at least for a while.
"I can't understand what they were thinking on any level (moral, financial, public relations, whatever)," she wrote.
Company officials declined further comment.
Driver also team's coach
Lord, who was the coach of the basketball team, was driving the van when it collided with a transport truck on a slushy stretch of highway just after midnight on Jan. 12, 2008. The team was returning from a game in Moncton.
A court document obtained by CBC News alleged that the collision was caused by negligence on the part of Lord and Bathurst Van Inc.
Bathurst Van Inc. is an incorporated body made up of administrators from Bathurst High School, including the principal.
Atlantic Wholesalers and Loblaws, divisions of the parent Ontario-based company Loblaw, were seeking $40,667.86 in damages. In addition, they wanted $847.50 for cleaning up, which included emptying fuel tanks and towing the transport truck from the crash site.
The claim alleged that Lord failed to keep the van under proper control, that he was operating the vehicle at a speed that was too fast for the road conditions and that he drove on the highway without reasonable consideration for other persons.
The statement of claim charged that Bathurst Van Inc. was liable because it failed to maintain the vehicle in a fit and proper condition suitable for safe operation. It also said the wheels of the vehicle were out of alignment, and that its tires were worn and had inadequate pressure.
None of the allegations in the statement of claim was proven in court. A statement of defence had not been filed.