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Judge allows third-party claim in Strathcona Park Lodge lawsuit

Plaintiff launched originally court action following injury in 2o12
B.C. Supreme Court and Court of Appeal in Vancouver. Black Press file photo

Strathcona Park Lodge and two co-defendants have successfully added third parties, including the plaintiff’s own family, to an injury lawsuit.

The plaintiff, Alina Heck, launched a suit against the lodge and two individuals, Kristie Amadio and Alex Champoux, in 2017 for an injury sustained almost 10 years ago. At age 14, she was hurt while on a hiking excursion.

In March 2021, court proceedings were discontinued against another party, the Central Island Inland Independent School Society, operating as Aspengrove School.

However, around the same time, the other defendants advised Heck they were filing a third party claim.

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In Supreme Court in Vancouver on June 2, Justice K. Michael Stephens conditionally agreed to add Heck’s psychologist, Dr. Douglas Cohen, and her parents, Brian Heck and Camilla Stephan.

“We applied to the court and asked the court for permission to add the parents and Dr. Cohen,” the defendants’ lawyer Michael Gianacopoulos told the Record.

The judge’s condition surrounds the third parties’ limitation defence. Both the plaintiff and the third parties had contested the defendents’ move on several grounds, arguing among other things that the limitation period for a third party claim had expired.

According to the written court decision, Heck originally launched the lawsuit in relation to physical and psychological injuries during a hiking incident on Oct. 4, 2012. A 20-day trial had been scheduled for last April but was adjourned. It was to have included 16 experts, including Cohen, a psychologist who did a neuropsychological assessment of Heck in 2013 and 2014.

The defendents’ position, as the court documents states, is that Cohen and Heck’s parents contributed to the ‘somatization’ of the plaintiff’s injuries by repeatedly communicating she is brain injured and suffers from cognitive impairment — and suffers from a condition she does not have or has at least been aggravated through their actions.

Justice Stephens noted that Cohen has denied any act of negligence, as do the parents. “Mr. Heck and Ms. Stephan submit that as parents they at all times acted responsibly and proactively to care for the plaintiff including having an assessment done at the Mayo Clinic,” Stephens adds.

The judge did point out at this preliminary stage of deciding whether to permit a third party claim, the court is not assessing evidence or weighing the merits of the proposed claim.

Strathcona Park Lodge is located just outside Strathcona Park, about five kilometres from the Buttle Lake entrance to the park. The lodge was founded in 1959, and in 1977, it started the Canadian Outdoor Leadership Training (COLT) program. According to the lodge’s website, over the years, more than 150,000 students have taken part, and in 1986 the program was recognized by the United Nations Environment Program with the Heaslip Award for Environmental Stewardship.

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