Who's the real victim: the teen cyclist who was struck and killed in a crash or the motorist who accidentally took his life? That's a question the courts will now have to answer.
In the early hours of Oct. 28, 2012, Brandon Majewski, 17, and his 16-year-old friends Richard McLean and Jake Roberts were riding their bikes home after grabbing a bite to eat. Riding abreast on a two-lane rural road in Innisfil, Ontario, the trio were struck from behind by a black Kia Sorrento driven by Sharlene Simon, News.com.au reported.
Majewski was pronounced dead two hours later at a local hospital. McLean spent weeks in the hospital recovering from broken bones, including a broken pelvis. Roberts was not seriously hurt.
Simon, 42, who was driving about 55 mph in a 50 mph zone, was not charged with fault in the accident. Police said intoxication was not suspected as a contributing factor either.
According to the National Post, investigators concluded that the “lack of visibility” of the cyclists “was the largest contributing factor,” and that on a dark overcast night, Simon "did not see the cyclists on the roadway and was unable to make an evasive reaction."
A terrible event for all involved, no doubt.
Then the Majewski family sued Simon for $900,000, and McLean's family filed a $1.4 million claim against her. Derek Majewski, Brandon's father, claims Simon was speeding, under the influence or texting at the time of the accident.
Last December, Simon countersued, filing a $1.35-million lawsuit against Majewski's estate, and against the other two bicyclists, for "great pain and suffering." Simon claims she has suffered from depression, anxiety, irritability and post-traumatic stress, and that the "enjoyment of life has been irretrievably lessened" since the accident.
Majewski's family was stunned by the lawsuit.
“I’m devastated, I’m in shock,” Majewski's mother, Venetta Mylnczyk, told the Toronto Sun. “She killed my child and now she wants to profit from it? She says she’s in pain? Tell her to look inside my head and she will see pain, she will see panic, she will see nightmares.”
In an email to Postmedia, Derek Majewski blasted the driver.
“Normally, I would not react like this,” Derek Majewski stated, “but I think it’s very cruel."
Majewski's father said he believes the teens were blamed for the accident because they were riding abreast on bikes with few reflectors and wore dark clothing but no helmets.
“They’re kids; they’re allowed to make a mistake," he reportedly said.
“I understand their grief and I understand what they must be going through is awful but my client is also living with this nightmare every day," Simon's lawyer, Michael Ellis, told The Star.
Ellis also told the Toronto Sun that Simon is unable to work and is simply responding to the legal actions filed by the families'.
“She would have lost everything,” Ellis said. “She would have been destitute ... homeless.”
None of the claims in either lawsuit have been proved.
A white bicycle, a smattering of flowers and a picture of Majewski now form a roadside memorial at the spot where the accident occurred. At the time of this writing, more than 4,500 people have also signed a petition on Change.org, lambasting Simon and urging police to further investigate the incident.
On Wednesday, the Sun noted that the South Simcoe Police have called for an outside police force to launch a new investigation into the accident.
Driver who killed Brandon Majewski now suing dead boy's parents. Story/pic by @MclaughlinZorro
— TorSun City Editor (@TorSunCity) April 25, 2014
CLARIFICATION: This article has been updated and amended in light of additional information not available in initial reports pertaining to the chronology of the filing of the lawsuits among the individuals.