A Saskatoon man whose son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren were killed by a drunk driver is applauding a move by the province’s insurance company to hold bars more accountable.
Lou Van de Vorst said he’s pleased SGI filed lawsuits against two Saskatoon bars that served alcohol to Catherine McKay the night she drove drunk and crashed into his son’s minivan on Wanuskewin Road in January 2016.
“It comes down to people taking responsibility for their actions and people also taking responsibility for those around them,” Van de Vorst said.
“When people leave a bar or come to a bar and they’re already intoxicated, should the bars be serving them liquor?”
On Wednesday, SGI announced it reached out-of-court settlements with the Industrial Kitchen and Lounge Corporation and MCDE Holdings Ltd., which operated the Crackers Licensed Cocktail & Dining Room at the time.
McKay pleaded guilty in June 2016 to four counts of drunk driving causing death and was sentenced to 10 years in prison,which she is currently serving in a healing lodge.
During her criminal case, court heard McKay’s blood-alcohol concentration was nearly three times the legal limit.
Court also heard McKay was at both bars, and staff observed her to be “highly intoxicated.”
SGI said due to the out-of-court agreement, details of the settlement — including whether money exchanged hands — would not be made public.
Van de Vorst said he doesn’t need figures to know it sends a message.
“Of course you don’t have any information on what the settlement was, but at the same time, (SGI) held the bars accountable for their part in the whole accident,” Van de Vorst said. “I’m happy with it.”
SGI said it intends to consider legal action in similar cases. Van de Vorst said he hopes the lawsuits serve as a warning to other establishments.
“The bars have to be careful about who they’re serving and how much they’re serving and what condition (patrons are) leaving in.”
SGI also filed a statement of claim against McKay. Because she didn’t file a statement of defence, the court issued a judgment against her for just over $98,000, which includes claim, interest and court costs.
It was issued prior to the settlements with the liquor establishments. SGI is only entitled to collect, in total, what it paid out.
Jim Bence, president and CEO of Saskatchewan Hotel and Hospitality Association, said details in this case are important.
“We’d be eager to understand how it is they came to a resolution for the lawsuit,” he said Thursday.
“There’s a lot of factors that would play into how it is the lawsuit came about, what factors led to some sort of meditation or decision.”
Bence noted mandatory training on legal serving responsibilities has already been in place for owners and managers handling alcohol in Saskatchewan the last two years.
“They do understand, now more than ever, the responsibility is on them.”
In July, the Serving It Right online course will also be mandatory for anyone else, including servers, who handles alcohol in the province.
With that extension, Bence said it’s important to know who else can be sued by SGI in similar cases in the future.
“If there was culpability, where did that land? Did that land squarely on the shoulders of the owner at the time? Or did it cascade down to supervisors, managers or even servers?”