Jury must decide whether U of R swimming pool was unsafe in Paralympian lawsuit
Then-16-year-old hit the bottom and fractured her cervical vertebrae in June 2005
A jury in Saskatchewan is being asked to decide whether an injury that left a Paralympian a quadriplegic was a tragic accident or because of an unsafe pool.
Miranda Biletski is suing the University of Regina for negligence.
Biletski dove into a pool from competition starting blocks at the university during a swim club practice in June 2005. The then-16-year-old hit the bottom and fractured her cervical vertebrae, leaving her a quadriplegic.
"The pool was unsafe," her lawyer, Alan McIntyre, said in his final submissions in a Regina court Wednesday.
"But they already knew it wasn't safe, that's why they already had a policy about no dives off the lip. They knew it was dangerous."
Court heard during the three and a-half week long trial that the pool depth of four feet or 1.22 metres was laid out in the tiles.
Water deep enough?
But McIntyre said the university's maintenance records for the pool "are horrible."
Part of the dispute is over whether there was enough water in the pool. McIntyre said court already heard that the person responsible for pool maintenance only added water one time in two months leading up to Biletski's accident.
The university's lawyer, Erin Kleisinger, said in her final submissions that the pool depth and the height of the starting blocks met Swimming Canada guidelines.
Swimming Canada rules established in 2002 set the minimum depth to 1.35 metres, but the guidelines also grandfathered pools built before 2002 and allowed 1.22 metres to continue as the minimum for those older facilities.
The university is denying negligence and blames the accident on Biletski and the swim club for deciding to use the starting blocks.
"The depth of the pool where the starting blocks were located wasn't the cause of Miss Biletski's injuries," said Kleisinger.
"This was clearly a tragic accident, as everyone has testified, she did a bad dive. She didn't perform the dive that she was trained to do or that she was instructed to do or that she intended to do. Something went wrong with the dive."
Coaches made final call on dive, university says
Court heard early in the trial that Biletski started going to swim competitions when she was 10. She was identified early on by coaches as being a strong swimmer.
The university has also filed its own lawsuit against the Piranhas Summer Swim Club to cover damages if the jury finds the university is liable.
It says the swim club coaches made the decision that the water level was safe.
But Reg Watson, the lawyer for the Piranhas Summer Swim Club, said the club never signed a contract with an indemnity clause that would make it liable. In fact, he said, they didn't have any written agreement, just an oral agreement on dates, times and prices for the club to use the pool.
Watson also took issue with the university attempting to shift the blame to the club.
"It's their facility. They're in charge of their facility. We aren't in charge of their facility, don't want to be in charge of their facility. We just rent their facility," he said.
"The U of R knew exactly what the purpose of the rental was. They knew that the blocks were there ... I mean they installed them."
Biletski — the first woman on Canada's wheelchair rugby team — can move her arms and shoulders, but has limited use of her hands.
She played with the largely male Team Canada rugby squad at world championships in 2010 and 2014, and at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where the team placed fourth.
The judge is expected to give instructions to the jury on Thursday before deliberations begin.