’Inflammatory’ claims cited in appeal of Saskatchewan swimming mishap settlement

REGINA — The University of Regina is appealing a jury’s decision that awarded $9.1 million to a woman who was left a quadriplegic after a swimming accident at the school.

Miranda Biletski was 16 in June 2005 when she hit the bottom of the university’s pool during a dive.

A lawsuit she launched was successful when a jury ruled in October that the U of R was to blame for the mishap.

Lawyers for the university have asked that the decision be overturned, arguing that claims made by Biletski’s lawyer and the lawyer for the Piranhas Swim Club played to the jury’s sympathies and were inflammatory.

During closing arguments Biletski’s lawyer read a series of statements about her life expectancy, her lack of resources and her courage facing her injury, while the club’s lawyer made similar remarks.

Biletski will not receive her settlement until the appeal process is complete.

Biletski can move her arms and shoulders, but has limited hand use.

She dove into the pool from competition starting blocks during a swim club practice, but hit the bottom and fractured her cervical vertebrae.

Court heard that the pool depth of four feet or 1.22 metres was laid out in the tiles, but at issue was whether there was enough water in the pool.

Court was told that the person responsible for pool maintenance only added water one time in two months leading up to Biletski’s accident.

The university’s lawyer, Erin Kleisinger, said in her final submissions that the pool depth and the height of the starting blocks met Swimming Canada guidelines.

The university also filed its own lawsuit against the Piranhas Summer Swim Club to cover damages if the jury found the university liable. It said the club’s coaches made the decision that the water level was safe and to use the starting blocks.

The jury did not find the club liable.

Biletski is the first woman on Canada’s wheelchair rugby team. She played with the Team Canada rugby squad at world championships in 2010 and 2014, and at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where the team placed fourth.