Lou Van de Vorst hopes SGI lawsuits 'sends a message' after he lost his family to impaired driver

The Van de Vorst family is pleased with SGI's out-of-court settlement after lawsuits were filed against Saskatoon establishments who served impaired driver Catherine McKay in January 2016.

Catherine McKay was impaired when she killed Jordan, Chanda, Kamryn and Miguire Van de Vorst in 2016

Jordan and Chanda Van de Vorst and their two-year-old son, Miguire, and five-year-old daughter, Kamryn, were killed in the 2016 crash. (Van de Vorst family/Facebook)

Lou Van de Vorst is pleased the bars that served the impaired driver who killed his son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren have been held to account, but he still feels there's much more work to be done.

Saskatchewan Government Insurance announced Wednesday it reached out-of-court settlements in lawsuits filed against two Saskatoon establishments that served the drunk driver involved in the fatal crash.

"Hopefully it sends a message to other bars and establishments that they may be held accountable for what their patrons are doing if they're serving too much liquor to them," said Van de Vorst.

Catherine McKay was given a 10-year sentence in July 2016 after she crashed into the vehicle carrying married couple Jordan and Chanda Van de Vorst, and their two children, Kamryn and Miguire, killing all four.

The suits were filed in July 2017 against Industrial Kitchen & Bar and MCDE Holdings Ltd., the company that operated Crackers Licensed Cocktail & Dining Room. Both served McKay the night of the collision.

"There's been a lot of work done by SGI, and I'm very happy with that," said Lou Van de Vorst.

According to SGI, in 2017 the number of deaths on Saskatchewan roads totalled 102, dropping to a low not seen in more than 60 years.

"The numbers still aren't [low] enough, and the numbers have to come down, so I would not say that I'm satisfied," he said.

The settlement

"SGI took this action to hold these particular liquor establishments accountable and SGI has said it intends to consider legal action in similar cases where the evidence merits," said Tyler McMurchy, manager of media relations for SGI.

SGI said the terms of the settlements will not be disclosed.

McKay's blood alcohol level was nearly three times the legal limit when her vehicle struck the car carrying the Van de Vorst family at the intersection of Highway 11 and Wanuskewin Road, north of Saskatoon.

It was the first time SGI had ever filed a lawsuit in a case like this, according to McMurchy. 

Catherine McKay received a 10-year sentence. In addition, SGI also filed a statement of claim against her in July. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

SGI also filed a statement of claim against McKay in July, while she was incarcerated. No statement of defence was filed and the court ruled against her.

That judgment allows the Crown corporation to collect the money which was paid out in the claims filed to SGI.

"We are satisfied with the results," McMurchy said.

"We do commend Saskatchewan liquor establishments who work to ensure the safety of their customers and others on the road, through calling a safe ride for them or in some cases even providing a safe ride at their own cost."

Law expert weighs-in

Jonathan Abrametz is an auto-injury lawyer for the Barrister Group in Saskatoon. Some of his clients include people injured by impaired drivers.

"I don't think bars are going to get sued by SGI just because an accident occurred," Abrametz said. "I think they're going to do some investigation to find out what the facts of the case are before they venture down," that route, he said.

"I truly believe that before this lawsuit happened that bars, maybe with a few exceptions, were law-abiding and served their patrons properly."

When it comes to social change relating to Saskatchewan's drinking and driving problem, he said "big changes will happen" when the province introduces legislation to allow ride-hailing services like Uber.