Woman who struck cyclists, killing one, now suing them for stress she’s suffered

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew
The senior pastor for the First Baptist Church of Piedmont was seriously injured Monday when the bicycle he was riding was hit by a car.

This is a cautionary tale about our modern reflex to head straight to court to compensate us the tragedies in our lives.

An Ontario woman who struck three teenage boys on their bicycles, killing one, now is suing the kids' families for more than $1 million for the stress she's suffered as a result of the accident.

Before your head explodes, you should also know she's being sued by the teens' families, but I'll leave it to you to decide who's more deserving.

Of course their respective insurers will probably wind up with the tab, which means we all pay in the end through higher premiums.

Sharlene Simon was driving down a country lane in Simcoe County north of Toronto around 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 28, 2012, when she suddenly came on the three teens riding abreast returning from a local coffee shop.

Unable to stop in time, she plowed into the group, killing 17-year-old Brandon Majewski and seriously injuring 16-year-old Richard McLean. Their friend Jake Roberts, also 16, escaped with only scratches, QMI Agency reported.

Last December, a lawyer for Simon filed a statement of claim in Ontario Superior Court naming the estate of the dead teen and the families of his friends, alleging the driver "has sustained and will sustain great pain and suffering," including " a severe shock to her system" as a result of the crash, Postmedia News reported.

Simon is claiming $1.35 million because, according to her claim, "her enjoyment of life has been and will be lessened" by the accident.

[ Related: Vancouver cyclist sued by driver after collision ]

Simon is herself the target of a $900,000 suit by the families of the victims that alleges Simon was speeding, intoxicated or texting at the time of the accident.

Neither side's claim has been proven in court.

It's not clear from the news reports which suit landed in court first. Lawyer Brian Cameron, acting for the victims' families, told QMI Agency their suit was mainly to recover medical and funeral costs.

Still, he was stunned at Simon's suit, which also names the County of Simcoe for failing to maintain the road.

“In all of my years as a lawyer, I have never seen anyone ever sue a child that they killed,” Cameron told QMI Agency. “It’s beyond the pale.”

Simon's suit alleges the boys were negligent by riding three abreast on the darkened road and for not wearing clothing that would make them visible to drivers. Two of the bikes had what police called "minimal reflectors," and none of the boys were wearing helmets, the claim says, according to Postmedia News.

"They're kids," Brandon's dad, Derek Majewski, told Postmedia News. "They're allowed to make a mistake."

Postmedia News said the 26-page accident report by the South Simcoe Police Service concluded the cyclists' lack of visibility "was the largest contributing factor," which, combined with the darkness of the overcast night, meant Simon "did not see the cyclists on the roadway and was unable to take an evasive action."

[ Related: Cyclist sues City of Winnipeg for 'dangerous' road ]

Majewski said he only learned about the suit last week and was stunned they were being "sued by the woman that killed them because she is distraught."

“Normally, I would not react like this,” he told Postmedia News via email, “but I think it’s very cruel.”

The tragedy of Brandon's death was compounded when, six months after the accident, his older brother Devon died in his sleep from a combination of drugs and alcohol. Majewski said he took Brandon's death very hard.

Majewski and his ex-wife, Venetta Mlynczyk, challenged the police handling of the case, alleging one of the investigators was friends with Simon's husband, Jules Simon, an officer with another police force in the region. That turned out to be untrue.

However, Jules Simon has been named in the claim by the victims' families. He was driving behind his wife the night of the accident and the claim alleges "he knew or ought to have known" she was in no condition to drive.

The police report said Simon acknowledged she was speeding, driving about 10 km/h above the 80 km/h speed limit. A roadside alcohol screening test was administered "out of an abundance of caution" but she registered "zero alcohol content in her blood system," the report said, according to Postmedia News.

The Crown prosecutor in the case declined to lay charges, believing there was no likelihood of a conviction.