Toronto Hydro apologizes for bill sent to shooting victim who was fighting for his life

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Toronto Hydro apologizes for bill sent to shooting victim who was fighting for his life

Toronto Hydro is apologizing for a bill it sent to a man while he was in intensive care after being shot in the neck and losing control of his car, which then crashed into a light pole in the city's west end. 

The bill was sent to Devante Taylor on Jan. 20, just five days after the now 24-year-old was shot while driving his three-year-old nephew home after church. Taylor was in hospital at the time — so his mother was the one who saw the bill.

"It's crazy. My son was still in critical care and I got a letter for a light post," Taylor's mother Venetia Tulloch said.

"I just looked at it and put it away because I have to deal with my son, not a light post or Toronto Hydro. My son's life comes first."

An invoice for 'prompt payment'

Emergency crews found Taylor at the crash scene on Kipling Avenue; the engine was still running, his nephew still in the car seat. A passerby turned off the engine and Taylor was rushed to hospital in serious condition.

He's been paralyzed from the neck down since then.

The letter from Toronto Hydro informed Taylor that he would be liable for the damages to the pole at the scene of the crash in Rexdale.

"When Toronto Hydro's costs are known, an invoice shall be forwarded to you for prompt payment," it read.

His mother was stunned.

"He ended up crashing because he was shot, not that he was drinking and driving or something," Tulloch said. "He was shot going about his own business."

Utility didn't know about Taylor's condition for months

Toronto Hydro spokesperson Tori Gass said that sending bills for damage to light poles or any other of the utility's infrastructure is standard process. The company regularly gets information about such incidents from the Ministry of Transportation and police to recoup the costs.

In 2016 alone, Gass says there were 270 collisions into poles, which cost upwards of $1.3 million in damages. If the utility doesn't act quickly to recoup the costs from insurance companies, she said ratepayers could be left picking up the tab.

But Toronto Hydro had no idea of the circumstances behind the crash until a police report came, Gass said Monday, something that can take up to six months to arrive.

It wasn't until early March that the utility learned the man they were billing slammed into the pole after being shot, she said.

'Obvious to just drop this'

"Once we saw the details, it was obvious to just drop this and we were able to take the costs on our end, not going to pursue any angle, either insurance or the customer," Gass said.

Asked why Taylor's family hadn't been notified that Toronto Hydro was no longer pursuing payment, Gass said the company is looking into whether it can improve its follow-up process, but noted an incident like this one is "extremely rare."

"We haven't had an instance quite like this in recent memory that any of our claims people can remember," she said.

Gass said the company plans to reach out to Tulloch to let her know the bill is void.

"This claim is nothing she needs to worry about. We're going to take care of it and we apologize for that letter even going out there and making its way to her," she said. "We wish that there was a way that we could take it back."