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Tamans getting $300,000 to settle lawsuit

Province, city act quickly to spare family another painful, drawn-out battle

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 3/3/2009 (3092 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The province and city will pay the family of Crystal Taman $300,000 to settle a lawsuit over the bungled handling of the case against an off-duty Winnipeg police officer who killed her in a traffic crash four years ago.

Justice Minister Dave Chomiak said Monday officials decided to close the case quickly — the statement of claim was only filed in January — to spare a long court case punctuated by lawyers’ arguments.

Robert Taman

WAYNE GLOWACKI/ WINNIPEG FREE PRESS ARCHIVES

Robert Taman

Crystal Taman

Crystal Taman

"This has been a nightmare from the beginning," Chomiak said. "We want the nightmare to end."

Chomiak said the cost of the payout to the family will be split between the province and city, but he did not comment on how much either would pay.

He also said the Tamans’ claim could have been challenged in court by all the defendants, but that would mean the case would have been before the courts for months, if not years, before a resolution was made.

"The bill would have been in the tens of thousands down the road," Chomiak said, adding it was in no one’s interest to have the case retried when it’s already gone through a controversial court case and damning public inquiry.

"We’ve gone through extraordinary testimony," he said. "Let’s just try to put this to bed."

Taman’s husband, Robert, and the couple’s three children — Tara, Kristin and Jordan — sued the Rural Municipality of East St. Paul, including its former police chief, Harry Bakema, the Winnipeg Police Service, including five officers who investigated the matter, and the provincial government, including special prosecutor Marty Minuk.

They were seeking unspecified general and aggravated damages for the emotional and mental distress they continue to suffer, including depression and anxiety.

The family also claimed the case "destroyed the quality of their life, their interpersonal relationships, their ability to properly grieve and to function in society."

The only person the family did not sue was former Winnipeg police Const. Derek Harvey-Zenk, the driver of the vehicle that killed Crystal Taman. Under Manitoba Public Insurance’s no-fault rules, crash victims can’t sue drivers for damages.

Robert Taman could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Gene Zazelenchuk, had little to say, other than that his clients were pleased the case was resolved. Taman was killed after she stopped at a red light at Lagimodiere Boulevard and the Perimeter Highway Feb. 25, 2005. She was headed into work when Harvey-Zenk’s pickup truck slammed into the back of her convertible.

Harvey-Zenk was later charged with several offences, including impaired driving causing death, but all charges except for dangerous driving causing death were later stayed in a controversial plea bargain.

He was sentenced to two years less a day to be served at home.

Two days later, the province called an inquiry into how the investigation and prosecution were handled.

Last October, inquiry commissioner Roger Sulhany said the investigation by the East St. Paul police and Winnipeg Police Service was botched and the prosecution of the case was poorly handled in that allegations of drinking were not properly collected.

In the lawsuit, the family also said the sentence Harvey-Zenk received "not only brought the administration of justice into disrepute, but left the plaintiffs with a feeling that their wife and mother was senselessly killed and as a result of the negligence of the various defendants, her killer was not appropriately punished."

They also claimed lost wages because they couldn’t work while they were attending the inquiry.

bruce.owen@freepress.mb.ca

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