By Keith Fraser, The Province
A judge has refused a severance application for two defendants in a lawsuit filed by the mother of one of the Surrey Six murder victims.
Eileen Mohan, whose son Christopher was one of the six men murdered in a 15th-floor suite of the Balmoral Towers in October 2007, filed a lawsuit in B.C. Supreme Court for damages, naming as defendants the strata corporation, the property manager, the landlords and the men criminally charged.
Mohan alleges that the strata, the property managers and landlords were negligent in various ways, including failing to warn her about the criminal activities of Cory Lal, a drug dealer who resided in the building and was one of the six victims.
The strata corporation and Atira Property Management Inc., the property managers, applied to have the allegations against them severed from, and heard in a separate trial from, allegations against the other defendants.
They made a number of submissions, including that there was a risk of relevant evidence being lost due to the passage of time. They also argued that the issues of liability with respect to them were different from, and not interwoven with, the issues of liability of the criminal defendants.
But in a ruling released Wednesday, B.C. Supreme Court Justice William Ehrcke dismissed those arguments.
The judge noted that to prove the liability of the civil defendants, Mohan must first prove that the murder of her son occurred as a result of the conduct of the criminal defendants.
“Those facts have been specifically denied in the pleadings of the strata corporation. It cannot be maintained, therefore, that the issues in relation to the civil defendants are distinct and not interwoven with the criminal defendants.”
The judge also noted that the plaintiff must establish that Atira and the strata council believed or reasonably suspected that there was drug dealing activity in the murder suite, and that they were negligent.
Much of the police evidence would therefore likely be relevant, added Ehrcke.
“I find therefore, that if the liability of the applicants were severed from the other defendants, there would likely be the necessity of multiple trials with extensive overlap and duplication in the evidence that would be called at each trial.
“This would not be an efficient use of court resources, but in addition, it would leave open the possibility of inconsistent findings of fact.”
In additional to the civil defendants, the suit alleges that James Kyle Bacon, Cody Rae Haevischer, Matthew Johnston, Michael Le, Sophon Sek and a man only identified as Witness X in the Surrey Six trial carried out or conspired to carry out the murder of Lal. The estate of Lal is also named as a defendant.
Bacon is awaiting trial in the Surrey Six murders. Haevischer and Johnston were convicted of first-degree murder in connection with the slayings. Le pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder part way through the trial. Sek pleaded guilty to helping the killers gain access to the building. Witness X pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.