Civil suits in Wettlaufer case could hit a major road block
Jennifer Wagner, CTV Kitchener
Published Wednesday, June 14, 2017 10:44PM EDT
As the criminal case against serial killer and former nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer is set to wind down in late June, civil lawsuits by some of the victims’ families against the nursing homes where she worked may not go ahead as planned.
One lawyer who specializes in nursing home cases says the chances of winning a civil suit like this one are slim to none.
Wettlaufer admitted earlier this month to killing eight of her patients and she also admitted to attempting to murder or hurt six others.
The crimes happened during a nine year span, dating back to 2007, at three different nursing homes and a private residence.
Amani Oakley specializes in nursing home lawsuits.
“Probably one of the reasons why I'm one of the few is because in Canada nursing home cases attract almost nothing in damages,” Oakley said.
She says the families of Wettlaufer's victims may run into problems with a civil lawsuit because of what's called The Trustee Act.
“You cannot bring forward litigation two years from the date of the death.”
The victim of Wettlaufer's first murder died ten years ago.
James Silcox’s daughter Andrea currently has a pending civil case.
Her lawyer, William Brennan, says there may be a way around current legislation given authorities didn't know about the crime until last fall.
“No one knew a murder took place until September 2016. So we're saying the two year limitation would start to run from when this crime was discovered,” Brennan said.
While it's certain Wettlaufer will be serving a life sentence behind bars, Amani Oakley believes it's unlikely the former nurse and other possible plaintiffs in a civil claim related to this case will be held accountable in civil court.
“A judge will want to help. But a judge will have their hands tied as a result of the language in The Trustee Act,” said Oakley.
Lawyers for the pending civil lawsuits are not providing any further details until after Wettlaufer is sentenced.
That is scheduled for the week of June 26th.
With reporting by Nicole Lampa.