Ontario family sues after Alberta drunk driving death

the Edmonton Sun, September 11, 2015

The mother of an Ontario woman killed by a drunk driver while working near Rocky Mountain House has filed a $1.6-million lawsuit against the Alberta man responsible. In a statement of claim filed in Edmonton's Court of Queen's Bench on Aug. 28, Laura Wise of Iron Bridge, Ont., alleges her daughter's death was caused by the "recklessness, gross negligence and conscious disregard for the lives of others" of Christopher Ross and says the killer driver's punishment was "totally inadequate."

As a result, the grieving mother is seeking punitive damages of $1.5 million, as well as $107,000 for bereavement damages and funeral expenses.

Trisha Wise, 20, was killed on June 22, 2014, about 1:45 a.m. after being struck by an SUV driven by Ross on a rural gravel road. At the time, RCMP alleged Ross' blood alcohol level was just shy of three times the legal limit and said investigators believe Wise and Ross were arguing just before she got out of the SUV and walked off.

Mounties also said at the time that Wise had been living at the same residence as Ross and the two had been working together in Clearwater County.

On May 12, Ross, 29, was handed a 30-day jail sentence, to be followed by a year of probation, after pleading guilty to causing an accident resulting in death while having a blood-alcohol level over the legal limit of .08. He was also given a two-year driving suspension.

According to the statement of claim -- which also names as a defendant Shelley Danes, who was the owner of the 1999 Jeep Cherokee being driven by Ross at the time -- Wise was an aspiring heavy equipment operator who had recently moved from Ontario to Alberta. The victim's mother alleges in the lawsuit that Ross did not call police after hitting Wise, nor did he call for an ambulance, and says he instead brought her body home and attempted medical treatment himself. She also alleges Ross knew her daughter was walking along the road after leaving the Jeep following a "heated argument" and he drove "recklessly fast" along the dark road despite knowing about the need to watch out for her.

The mother also noted in the statement of claim that Ross was not charged with manslaughter, murder, obstruction of justice or interfering with a dead body.

A statement of defence has not yet been filed.

Statements of claim and statements of defence contain allegations which have not been proven in court.

Rocky Mountain House, which is in Clearwater County, is about 220 km southwest of Edmonton.
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