Bomb blast victims sue Bombay Bhel for $6M, claim Mississauga restaurant target of 'turf war'

Six victims of a bomb blast in late May are suing a popular Indian restaurant in Mississauga, Ont., for damages totalling $6 million, alleging the establishment failed to provide proper security amid a "turf war between rival business associates."

Police say no indication threats made prior to attack, as civil lawsuit outlines

A homemade bomb detonated at Bombay Bhel restaurant in Mississauga, Ont., on May 24 injuring 15 people. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

Six victims of a bomb blast in late May are suing a popular Indian restaurant in Mississauga, Ont., for damages totalling $6 million, alleging the establishment failed to provide proper security amid a "turf war between rival business associates."  

Their lawyers outlined details of the civil lawsuit during a Tuesday morning news conference at Diamond & Diamond, a Toronto-based personal injury law firm.

"The owners of the Bombay Bhel restaurant knew or ought to have known there was an issue with security and that they were targeted," lawyer Darryl Singer told reporters. 

We believe we were carnage in a turf war between individuals we did not even know.- Sonia Sheth's family

Peel Regional Police told CBC Toronto they have seen no indication of a turf war.

"We have interviewed everyone identified in this investigation," spokesperson Sgt. Matt Bertram said in an email, noting they have never received any reports of threats targeting the restaurant, its owner and staff. 

Three victims — Porshia Mehta, top left, Neelamjit Luthra, bottom left, and Sonia Sheth, bottom right — identified in the statement of claim appeared Tuesday but declined to speak. (Dean Gariepy/CBC)

Court documents filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on Monday lay out the suit on behalf of Sonia Sheth, Porshia Mehta, Surjit Luthra, Parmeshvar Luthra, Arjun Luthra and Neelamjit Luthra.

Each is seeking $1 million in damages from Bombay Bhel and the corporation that owns it for the "severe and permanent injuries" they suffered, the statement of claim reads. None of these allegations have been proven in court. 

40 people in restaurant

Peel police alleged two disguised suspects entered Bombay Bhel on the evening of May 24, planted an improvised explosive device that contained nails, then fled. Moments later, the device detonated.  

The explosion wounded 15 people, three of whom suffered "critical blast injuries," according to paramedics. All have since been released from hospital. 

The six victims, named in the civil lawsuit, suffered 'severe and permanent injuries' that has prevented them from returning to work, court documents said. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

Groups of families and friends were celebrating birthdays at the restaurant, nestled in a small plaza near the intersection of Hurontario Street and Eglinton Avenue East.

Bombay Bhel is a staple for many in the Greater Toronto Area's South Asian community who dine there for a taste of home. 

About 40 people were inside the restaurant at the time, many of whom were children under 10. Witnesses described a chaotic scene of broken glass and bloodied diners.

'Wrong place at the wrong time'

One of the victims named in the lawsuit issued a statement Tuesday about the bombing calling it "unfathomable."

Sheth's family believes it could have been prevented and that Bombay Bhel failed to protect her safety.

"We are victims of being in the wrong place at the wrong time," the statement said.

"We believe we were carnage in a turf war between individuals we did not even know."  

Sonia Sheth is among five other victims who are suing Bombay Bhel restaurant. She attended a news conference at a Toronto law firm's office Tuesday. (Dean Gariepy/CBC)

Despite investigators claim that their probe hasn't uncovered any threats, lawyers maintained the rivalry was "common knowledge" in the community. Sandra Zisckind explained her firm obtained this information from several sources they spoke to who had reached out to the victims.

"Usually things don't start with a bombing," said Zisckind. "Usually things start with threats or with juxtapositions and people are starting to flex their muscles."

Bombay Bhel needed to have more security guards and surveillance cameras on site, or closed for a period of time, she added.

Peel Police Chief Jennifer Evans has previously said there is no indication the bombing was a terrorist act or hate crime. Investigators have not released a motive nearly three months after the bombing and no group has taken responsibility for it. 

"If there is additional information that has been uncovered during this civil process, we would encourage those with information to contact police," Bertram said.

Doors unlocked, statement says

The statement of claim says Bombay Bhel's entrance doors weren't locked at 10:30 p.m., when they were supposed to be. Two minutes later, the bomb detonated, the document says.

Police have not confirmed the exact time of the blast, but the restaurant closes at 10 p.m. everyday, according to its website.  

"Had the doors been closed on time, the bombing would not have happened inside the restaurant," the lawsuit reads.

Victims of a bomb blast at Bombay Bhel restaurant ranged in age from 23 to 69, police said. (Mark Blinch/Reuters)

The bombed-out restaurant sustained a "considerable amount of damage," Evans said, and has been closed since.

Owner Mohan Nagpal declined an interview with CBC Toronto on Tuesday. He anticipates Bombay Bhel will reopen in a few weeks.  

A dedicated police task force, established to investigate the case, is looking for two suspects. Both were initially believed to be male, but investigators now say one may be female.

No arrests have been made, and Bertram said due to the "sensitive" nature of the investigation police cannot share anymore "detailed information" about their progress.