Parents of Bearspaw student strangled by lanyard settle lawsuit but dollar amount remains secret
Nicholas Kitzul, 8, suffered severe brain injury after he was found hanging from a lanyard at school
The family of a southern Alberta boy who was catastrophically injured when he was strangled by a lanyard has reached a settlement agreement with the Rocky View school board, although the dollar amount will remain a secret.
After a 2012 accident at his school in Bearspaw, a rural community northwest of Calgary, Nicholas Kitzul — then age 8 — was left with a severe brain injury and spent four months in hospital.
Now, seven years later, at age 15, he continues to require 24-hour care from two nannies, wheelchairs and specialized equipment.
"The progress is very, very slow but the family are so devoted to him, I wouldn't be surprised if he was walking one day," said Tara Pipella, the Kitzul family's lawyer.
The money will go toward things like rehab equipment, mobility devices and his in-home care, taking some of the pressure off his parents who are "exhausted," said Pipella.
"If you have the opportunity to meet Nicholas, he's a beautiful soul. He's riding with a modified bike, he's swimming in a pool."
In a Calgary court on Thursday, CBC News and other media outlets including CTV, Global, Postmedia and Chorus opposed a partial sealing order that prevents the publication of the settlement amount
But Court of Queen's Bench Justice Alice Woolley said in this case, settlement privilege — which prevents the disclosure of settlement figures — trumps the open courts principle.
"It is the only way to ensure we have a system … that encourages settlement discussion and the avoidance of litigation," said Woolley in delivering her decision.
In 2012, Kitzul was in Grade 3 when his teacher gave him a lanyard to sign out of class to use the washroom.
About four minutes later, another student found the boy hanging by the lanyard, which had caught on a bathroom cubicle door.
Parents Kamila and Grant Kitzul sued the school and other related parties for more than $17 million in 2014.
The defendants included the Rocky View Schools Division, the Alberta Teachers' Association, the company that donated the non-breakaway lanyards and two school employees.
This past December, the Kitzuls reached a settlement agreement with the school board, meaning their three-week 2020 trial could be adjourned.
Media outlets argued against a partial sealing order, saying the public had a right to scrutinize the settlement.
"The absence of that information will only encourage scepticism and suspicion," said Matthew Woodley, who represents the media consortium.
But lawyers for the family and the school board said it was necessary to protect the family's privacy.
"Confidentially was an essential term of the settlement," said Pipella.
Woolley agreed, finding people would be discouraged from settling if dollar amounts were made public.
"One of the biggest advantages to settling outside court is that it's private," said the judge.