ICBC is apologizing after saying that a RCMP officer’s own negligence contributed to her death the night she was killed by a drunk driver.
“We want to express our profound apologies,” said Nicolas Jimenez, the president and CEO of ICBC. “This was a mistake.”
Westshore RCMP Const. Sarah Beckett was struck by a vehicle driven by Kenneth Jacob Fenton in the early morning hours of April 5, 2016 in Langford.
Beckett, a 32-year-old mother of two, died of her injuries in hospital shortly after.
Fenton pleaded guilty to multiple charges including impaired driving causing death and was sentenced to four years in prison.
According to court documents from March 2018, the Attorney General of Canada has filed a civil claim against Fenton seeking damages for the loss and damage to Const. Beckett’s RCMP cruiser, a Ford Crown Victoria.
Yet in a third party response to the civil claim, filed by ICBC in May 2018, ICBC writes Const. Beckett’s negligence should deny the granting of damages.
In their response, ICBC says Beckett “failed to keep a proper lookout,” and “failed to give warning by sounding the horn of her motor vehicle,” along with a dozen other allegations of negligence.
ICBC says that Beckett “had a duty of care” to Fenton, and to others using the highway, and “the act of colliding with the vehicle operated by the Defendant…was a breach of that duty.”
ICBC cited these reasons as legal basis for denying the civil claim by the Attorney General of Canada, but now they are acknowledging their mistake.
“An error was made in the handling of this claim and we want to step up right away and acknowledge that and apologize to the family, constable Beckett, to the West Shore RCMP, and to the community at large,” said Jimenez.
Jimenez added when he became aware of this response he “immediately changed the approach and instructed the counsel to withdraw the defence and accept liability.”
Beckett’s husband, Brad Aschenbrenner, declined an on-camera interview, but he told CHEK News the filing ICBC made initially is “mindblowing” and “an apology isn’t good enough.”
Fenton has not yet filed a response to the civil claim.
Westshore RCMP issued a statement on Friday afternoon from Officer In Charge Inspector Todd Preston in response to the story.
“Kenneth Fenton has been convicted in criminal court of impaired driving causing death as well as dangerous operation of a motor vehicle causing death,” said Preston. “We are aware of the civil suit and the response filed by ICBC. On our end we remain deeply affected by the loss of our friend and respected colleague, Sarah. The timing of this story coming out so close to Christmas leaves myself and the membership of West Shore RCMP saddened.”
Jimenez said he wants to make sure something like this never happens again.
“This is not the kind of company we are,” he said. “We’ve taken pretty significant steps to put in more controls on the review of these sensitive files.”
Victoria-based lawyer Michael Mulligan says unfortunately, situations like this one are all too common.
“It looks like what happened here is that ICBC filed simply a pro forma reply within that short time period they had to reply and that would simply be the basis of allowing the case to proceed,” he explained.
However, Mulligan added that doesn’t necessarily mean ICBC was claiming that’s what caused the crash — it’s just standard procedure.
“In the reply, a variety of things were listed, which at the end of the day, it may well be, simply didn’t occur,” he said. “But if they are not listed in the reply, then the other side would not be permitted to even ask about them.”