09/19/2014 04:30 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:02 EDT

Newfoundland judge dismisses moose-vehicle collision class-action lawsuit

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - A judge in Newfoundland and Labrador has dismissed a class-action lawsuit that claimed the provincial government was negligent by failing to do enough to protect drivers from moose-vehicle collisions.

Provincial Supreme Court Judge Robert Stack delivered his decision Friday, saying the province was not liable for the collisions and implemented an appropriate accident-prevention policy.

Stack's ruling also says that one of the plaintiffs' key witnesses, wildlife expert Dr. Tony Clevenger, was biased, unreliable and provided misleading information.

The court heard that Newfoundland has the highest moose density rate in North America with an average of 1.7 animals per square kilometre. An average of about 660 moose-vehicle collisions happen each year in the province, where adult moose have no real predators.

Ches Crosbie, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, had argued the province knew for at least 10 years that moose pose a hazard on the highways but did not decide on a specific policy to reduce that risk.

Crosbie issued a statement Friday saying Stack's decision was a "moral victory" for the plaintiffs because the government has responded to the lawsuit by taking further action to reduce collisions.

"The government won in a court of law, but lost in the court of public opinion," Crosbie said.

Crosbie's statement indicated that the plaintiffs could file an application to appeal the Stack's decision. He also suggested the government should ignore "legal technicalities" and offer compensation to the severely injured people who have helped raise awareness about the problem.

The lawsuit involved 135 plaintiffs who required hospital admission for their injuries, and at least 15 estates of those killed in collisions since 2001.

The province has expressed condolences to crash victims but defended its use of roadside signs, brush cutting and public awareness campaigns urging drivers to be cautious and reduce speed.

Adult moose can weigh between 360 and 450 kilograms or 800 to 1,000 pounds. The top-heavy animals are known to run across roadways with no warning, often crashing over the hoods of vehicles into windshields.

(VOCM, The Canadian Press)