Ottawa

Family of student who died in stairwell fall suing Algonquin College

The family of an Algonquin College student who died after falling three storeys down a campus stairwell is suing the school for more than $1.2 million.

Joshua Clute, 18, died after falling 3 storeys down a stairwell

Joshua Clute, 18, died after falling down a stairwell at Algonquin College on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The family of an Algonquin College student who died after falling three storeys down a campus stairwell is suing the school for more than $1.2 million.

Joshua Clute, 18, was found on the concrete floor of the stairwell in Building C on Jan. 17, 2018. Nine days later, on Jan. 26, 2018, he died after being taken off life support.

At the time, paramedics said Clute may have been lying at the bottom of the stairwell for an hour before he was found.

His parents, brother and grandmother are suing the school for the "loss of guidance, care and companionship" that resulted from his death, along with other costs.

The lawsuit claims the first-year student had been on a 10-minute break from a class in an adjoining building when he climbed a staircase beside Building C.

The building was under renovation, but the staircase was still open to the public. It alleges he then stepped onto a piece of drywall, which gave way.

He fell approximately nine metres, suffering a fractured skull, traumatic brain injury, a collapsed lung and a spinal injury, the statement claims.

Taken off life support

Joshua never regained consciousness and doctors told his family the damage was irreversible. He was taken off life support Jan. 26 and his organs were donated.

Clute's family alleges the drywall "projected the appearance of being a floor and/or surface that could be easily and safely walked upon."

Their claim states the college failed to erect barriers, post warning signs or install security cameras in the stairwell. They also claim the college failed to ensure contractors followed proper safety procedures.

None of the claims made in the lawsuit has been proven in court.

$1.2M in damages

The family is suing for $1.2 million in damages, including loss of income for his parents and $56,868.69 "for medical goods and services provided by the Ottawa Hospital."

In its statement of defence, Algonquin blames any injuries Clute suffered on his own negligence.

According to the school, Clute climbed over a railing, failed to look out for his own safety and wasn't wearing his prescription glasses. As well, "his faculties of observation, perception, judgment and self-control were impaired due to alcohol, drugs and/or fatigue," according to the college, which also suggest the family's damage claims are excessive and exaggerated.

None of those claims has been proven, either.

The college has filed a separate claim against the contractors working on the renovation, PCL Constructors Canada Inc., saying the drywall was installed without "consulting or otherwise advising" the college, and that if the area was dangerous, the construction company breached its contractual duties.

In turn, the contractor denies it should be held liable for Clute's fatal fall, stating the company and its workers performed their duties under its contract with Algonquin "in keeping with the standards of the industry," and that it ensured all "appropriate safety measures were taken."