U of R wants new trial or verdict overturned in Paralympian's negligence suit

The University of Regina has filed a notice of motion to Saskatchewan's Court of Appeal to overturn a jury's verdict and judgment in a civil case against a Paralympian.

Paralympic swimmer Miranda Biletski was awarded $9M in damages by a jury, judge upheld verdict

Miranda Biletski sued the University of Regina after a diving accident at 16 that left her a quadriplegic. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

The University of Regina is asking Saskatchewan's highest court to overturn a jury's verdict, later upheld by a judge, that requires the school to pay out millions to a Paralympian who was paralyzed using its swimming pool.

In October, a jury awarded Miranda Biletski $9 million in damages from the University of Regina, which was deemed negligent in the accident that left Biletski a quadriplegic.

In December 2017, a Court of Queen's Bench judge upheld that verdict.

Biletski, who competed as a member of Canada's national wheelchair rugby team in the 2016 Rio Paralympics, sued the school in 2007, claiming it was negligent in a 2005 diving accident into a pool that left her a quadriplegic at age 16.

At the time, she was a promising speed swimmer who had recently joined the Piranhas Swim Club. 

Biletski dove into a pool from competition starting blocks at the university during a Piranhas Swim Club practice in June 2005. She hit the bottom and fractured her cervical vertebrae.

In a notice of appeal filed to the Court of Appeal earlier this month — which names the Regina Piranhas Swim Club as a third party — the university is requesting the jury's verdict and the judge's decision in the case be overturned, or that a new trial be ordered.

"The jury made findings that no reasonable jury, reviewing the evidence as a whole and acting judicially, could have made," it reads.

The university lays out its grounds for the appeal on the basis that the jury did not "consider relevant evidence," improperly assessed the liability of the school in the situation and awarded "inordinately high" damages to Biletski.

The school also takes issue with the closing arguments made by Biletski's counsel during the trial.

"Throughout the trial and in their closing address, counsel for Ms. Biletski misstated the evidence, stated facts not in evidence, encouraged the jury to decide the case based on emotion and sympathy for Ms. Bitletski, encouraged the jury to decide the case based on irrelevant circumstances and referred to the resources and ability to pay of the University," it reads.

Biletski will not receive her settlement until the appeal process is complete.

With files from The Canadian Press