Paralympian prepared for U of R to appeal verdict in diving lawsuit

Paralympian prepared for U of R to appeal verdict in diving lawsuit

Former competitive swimmer Miranda Biletski is prepared — after an already 10-year legal saga — to take on any appeals the University of Regina may file in a case that awarded her millions of dollars in damages.

"With the amount of money the reward was, I would be surprised if they didn't," said Biletski.

On Friday, a jury determined that the U of R was negligent in a diving accident that left her a quadriplegic in 2005. The jury awarded Biletski $9 million.

Biletski was a competitive swimmer and a member of the Piranhas Swim Club. She was 16 at the time, and she dove into a pool from the competition starting blocks at the university during a swim club practice.

She hit her head on the bottom of the pool and fractured her cervical vertebrae, leaving her a quadriplegic.

Biletski and the Piranhas Swim Club were deemed not at fault in the accident.

"I don't think it's still fully sunk in yet — I mean, life still kind of goes on," said Biletski.

Biletski said the money she was awarded will help her cover the costs of adaptive equipment that will allow her to live an independent life.

For her, describing the challenges she faces in everyday life was one of the more difficult aspects of the trial.

"It's tough to have to go into the most intimate details of your life. That's kind of now out there for anybody that wants to Google it," said Biletski.

But watching her former Piranhas Swim Club coaches testify was the hardest part of the trial. Biletski said she was relieved the jury decided the swim club was not negligent for the accident, as she never wanted them involved. 

"All three of them, after that season, had quit coaching," said Biletski.

"It was tough to hear the emotional effects, and the kind of loss of passion for the sport that happened for them afterwards."

Biletski brings the same determination she brought to her legal case to athletics. Biletski now plays wheelchair rugby — otherwise known as murderball — and competed in the 2016 Paralympics in Rio.

Now that the trial is over, she said she looks forward to returning to training, as in less than a year she has a world championship to compete in.

"Sports has always been such a huge part of my life, before and after the injury," said Biletski.

"I credit it for saving me after my injury."

As for what's next, the University of Regina has 30 days to file an appeal.

"We respect the legal process and, at this time, will not comment on the court's decision other than to say that we will take time to review it and determine what, if any, steps may be taken as a result," a representative for the university wrote in an email.