Woman awarded $6 million due to ‘unsafe’ highway

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WOODSTOCK, Ont. — A three-judge panel of the Court of Appeal in Toronto has ended a 12-year ordeal by Marilyn MacMillan to prove the province failed to keep Hwy. 401 safe.

The 53-year-old London, Ont., woman was awarded almost $6 million after the court ruled the province should have cleared ice from one of the highway’s bridges where the woman suffered devastating head injuries in a crash.

The accident occurred on Oct. 12, 1988 near Woodstock, just before 8 a.m. The court ruled provincial Ministry of Transportation workers had failed to inspect the bridge for ice despite repeated weather forecasts of unseasonably cold weather and snow in the area.

MacMillan’s lawyer, Earl Cherniak, said the award shouldn’t open the province up to a flood of lawsuits over highway crashes.

“There is no floodgates here,” he tells the media. “Every single case turns on its individual facts.”

“Even if the ministry did not have constructive knowledge of the actual formation of ice on the bridge, it ought reasonably to have known of the real risk of this happening,” the judges ruled.

MacMillan spent four weeks after the accident in a coma and three years in a Texas rehabilitation facility. Her appeal followed a trial court judge’s decision in 1998 that the government wasn’t liable for the accident.

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