Via Rail sues City of Ottawa for $4M in latest bus-train crash claim

Via Rail is suing the City of Ottawa and the estate of bus driver Dave Woodard for $4 million in damages in the latest lawsuit following the Sept. 2013 fatal bus-train crash.

More than a dozen lawsuits launched in relation worst bus crash in Ottawa's history

Six people died after a crash between a Via Rail train bound for Toronto and a double-decker bus in south Ottawa on Sept. 18, 2013. Thirty people were injured. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Via Rail is suing the City of Ottawa and the estate of OC Transpo bus driver Dave Woodard for $4 million in damages for "negligence" in the latest lawsuit following the fatal bus-train crash nearly two years ago.

The Crown corporation is also claiming damages of more than $200,000 on behalf of two train engineers who have not returned to work since the crash.

Woodard and five passengers died after the bus he was driving crashed into Via Rail passenger train No. 51 on the morning of Sept. 18, 2013.

More than a dozen lawsuits totalling nearly $15 million have been filed against the city and Woodard's estate, including by family members of passengers who died in the crash and passengers who survived the crash. Via Rail is a defendant in some of those lawsuits, as well.

In June, the City of Ottawa accused Via Rail of "negligence" in statements of defence filed in response to lawsuits from two victims' families, and further defended Woodard as a "competent, trained and experienced driver."

Via Rail was not named as a defendant in those two cases.

The Transportation Safety Board has not released its final report on the crash but a preliminary version named the speed of the bus and distracted driving as possible factors.

 'We don't know what happened'

Via Rail has now filed its own statement of claim, listing 21 reason why it believes the city's negligence contributed to the crash, including failing to properly maintain the bus, train the driver and ensure there was an advanced warning sign on the transitway to signal an approaching train.

It also listed 16 reasons why it believes Woodard was negligent, including careless driving and speeding.

Stéphane Émard-Chabot, a former Ottawa city councillor and lawyer specializing in municipal issues, said it's "quite typical" for all the parties involved to sue each other — detailing each possible point of error.

"At this point, we don't know what happened. Was it Via's fault? Was it the driver's fault? Was there a mechanical error with the bus or did the signals malfunction?" Émard-Chabot said.

"The rules for civil lawsuits are pretty clear: you have to set out all the possibilities that you may rely on in your initial documents and if you don't do that it is much tougher to add those later on."

Via Rail claims its lights and bells were "fully activated" at the Woodroffe Avenue crossing and adjacent OC Transpo crossing on the transitway at the time of the crash.

It says damage to the train, railway tracks and crossing and the railway business in general total $4 million.

The City of Ottawa and Via Rail both refused to comment on the latest lawsuit on Thursday because it remains before the courts.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

On mobile? Tap here to read statement of claim.