ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — A class-action lawsuit involving victims of moose-vehicle crashes in Newfoundland and Labrador boils down to whether the province has negligently failed to manage the moose population, a lawyer for the plaintiffs argued as the case began Wednesday.
Ches Crosbie said the provincial government has known for at least 10 years that moose pose a hazard on the highways but did not decide on a specific policy to reduce that risk.
“The question is, what have they done about it?” he said in provincial Supreme Court in St. John’s.
The public has a right to use the Trans-Canada Highway and other routes safely and unobstructed, Crosbie stressed. Yet virtually everyone on the island knows somebody who has had a collision, he said.
About 800 accidents or close calls have been recorded annually in recent years. The class-action includes people who were seriously injured since 2001 and several estates of those who have been killed.
Proceedings started with Jennifer Pilgrim, who testified that her husband, Roy, died instantly of massive head injuries when his car struck a moose March 11, 2009. The father of three was getting on the Trans-Canada Highway near Bishop’s Falls in central Newfoundland when a moose sprang on to the roadway, she said.
The following day was her birthday and the couple was to celebrate their 40th anniversary in June of that year, Pilgrim said.
She said outside court that she wants the province to install moose fencing along highways across the province.
“I know they can’t do it all at once but if they do so much each year … because I wouldn’t want to see another family go through this.”
The government has expressed condolences to victims in the past but has said it has acted.
Past measures include limited moose fencing, highway motion detection devices, roadside brush cutting and public education efforts.
Crosbie argues in an unproven statement of claim that moose are a public nuisance that the government introduced and then negligently failed to control.
Adult moose weigh between 360 and 450 kilograms — 800 to 1,000 pounds — and were brought to the island despite having “no natural predator (other than black bears which prey on very young calves),” says the statement of claim.
Collisions with the long-legged and top-heavy animals can be devastating at highway speeds of 70 to 110 kilometres an hour, it says.
“A car’s bumper and front grill typically will break the moose’s legs, causing the body of the moose to clear the car’s hood and deliver the bulk of the body weight into the windshield, crushing the windshield, front roof beams and anyone in the front seats.”