NEWS

No new trial for boy hit by bus 18 years ago

06/07/2012 01:39 EDT | Updated 08/07/2012 05:12 EDT

The Supreme Court of Canada has granted an appeal in the case of a four-year-old Nova Scotia boy who was hit and badly injured by a school bus nearly two decades ago.

The 12-page decision, released Thursday, sides with the bus driver and the school board that he was working for. It effectively closes the books on a legal battle that has dragged on for nearly five years.

On April 12, 1994, Johnathan Lee Marshall was playing with his brothers in his front yard at the family home in Paradise, in the Annapolis Valley. Marshall ran onto Highway 201, into the path of a school bus driven by Douglas Ernest Feener.

Feener slammed on his brakes, but he was unable to stop in time. Marshall was struck by the school bus, knocked unconscious and suffered serious injuries.

More than 18 years since that accident, Marshall has had dozens of surgeries and now requires a guardian to represent him. He can't work, can't walk very far or very easily. He needs constant care.

No one else was injured in the accident as Feener's bus was empty. He had dropped off elementary school students and was on his way to a nearby high school to pick up another load of students when the accident occurred.

RCMP investigators found no evidence of excessive speed or reckless driving.

Marshall's family sued Feener and the Annapolis County District School Board — as it was then called — for negligence. The case didn't go to trial until 2009 because the family had waited to see how much care Marshall would need as an adult.

The jury trial took 36 days and was spread over 10 weeks — purportedly the longest civil jury trial in Nova Scotia's history. In the end, the jury sided with the Annapolis County District School Board and Feener.

Marshall's family appealed and in a decision released last year, the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal ordered a new trial. Thursday's decision from the Supreme Court of Canada overturns that Appeal Court decision and restores the original jury verdict.

At one point, Marshall's family was asking for $4.3 million in damages. Following the trial verdict, legal costs for the school board and its bus driver had been assessed at more than $221,000. It's unclear whether Marshall's family is responsible for that cost.

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