London police face $2.4M lawsuit over crash following aborted pursuit

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The Strathroy-Caradoc police board and an unnamed officer are facing a $2.4-million lawsuit after a London woman was badly injured in a crash at a rural intersection following an aborted police pursuit.

Marisa Bucci is seeking $1.5 million in general damages and $500,000 in special damages – a monetary award meant to compensate an injured person for lost future income, medical or rehabilitation costs – connected to a two-car collision south of Mount Brydges in October 2020.

The statement of claim, filed in London on Oct. 12, alleges negligence and breach of statutory duty on the part of the Strathroy-Caradoc Police Service Board and the unnamed officer.

The statement of claim includes allegations not yet tested in court.

Bucci’s statement of claim alleges the unnamed officer in a marked police cruiser began to pursue a speeding Audi on Christina Road to pull it over on Oct. 14, 2020. Police dispatch advised the officer to go ahead with the pursuit, but shortly after told him to call it off, the statement of claim contends.

After the police pursuit ended, the officer noticed the Audi had collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Christina and Longwoods roads, the statement of claim contends.

Among other allegations, Bucci’s statement of claim contends the officer failed to “terminate the pursuit in a timely manner” and knew or ought to have known engaging in the pursuit posed a danger to the public.

The Strathroy-Caradoc police services board, among other things, permitted its employees to engage in a “high speed chase” they knew or ought to have known was dangerous and failed to implement proper procedures for “the safe and reasonable conduct of police pursuits,” the statement of claim contends.

Bucci’s spouse and daughter are seeking a combined $400,000 in damages under the Family Law Act. The provincial law allows family members to sue for damages stemming from their loved one’s injuries, including income loss, travel expenses or out-of-pocket costs for caring for Bucci.

Bucci, who suffered a series of injuries including a brain injury and several fractures, spent more than two months in hospital, first at London Health Sciences Centre’s Victoria Hospital followed by rehabilitation at the Parkwood Institute, the statement of claim contends.

She has required extensive care post-collision, including physiotherapy, massage therapy, occupational therapy, speech language therapy and counselling with a social worker, the statement of claim alleges.

“As a result of her injuries, and despite her participation in rehabilitation, Marisa suffers from serious and permanent impairments of several important physical, mental and psychological functions,” the statement of claim alleges.

The Strathroy-Caradoc police board has not yet filed a statement of defence in response.

Comment from the police board was not immediately available on the weekend.

Bucci, her spouse and daughter had launched a $2.4-million lawsuit against the alleged driver of the vehicle in June.

The crash had been previously probed by Ontario’s police watchdog which cleared the unidentified officer of any criminal wrongdoing.

The Strathroy-Caradoc police officer attempted to stop a speeding Audi on Longwoods Road, but the driver drove away, the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), said in a March 2021 report.

The officer was directed to end the pursuit and, shortly after, the Audi ran a stop sign at Christina and Longwoods roads and collided with a Toyota Corolla, the SIU said. The crash sent both vehicles into a neighbouring corn field.

In the report, SIU director Joseph Martino said it was “highly regrettable” the woman was in the “wrong place at the wrong time” but said the unidentified officer “neither caused the collision nor conducted himself in a fashion that transgressed the limits of care prescribed by the criminal law.”

Ontario’s SIU investigates all cases of serious injury, death and allegations of sexual assault involving police.

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