ICBC apologizes for saying Vancouver Island Mountie was negligent when she was hit, killed by drunk driver
VICTORIA -- The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) is apologizing for suggesting that a Vancouver Island Mountie was negligent when she was struck and killed by a drunk driver who sped through a red light near Victoria in 2016.
West Shore RCMP Const. Sarah Beckett, a 32-year-old mother of two, died in hospital shortly after the crash in Langford.
Kenneth Jacob Fenton, 29 years old at the time, was handed a four-year sentence after pleading guilty to charges of impaired driving and dangerous driving causing death.
However, two years after the crash, a civil claim against Fenton and his insurer, ICBC, sought to recoup the costs of Beckett's damaged RCMP cruiser on behalf of the Attorney General of Canada.
In response to the claim for damages, lawyers for ICBC said the insurance corporation "denies that the collision was as a result of negligence on the part of the defendant, Kenneth Jacob Fenton," arguing instead that the collision was caused by "the negligence of the deceased Const. Sarah Beckett."
Beckett was killed when her police cruiser was struck by Fenton's speeding pickup truck at the intersection of Peatt Road and Goldstream Avenue in the early morning hours of April 5, 2016.
Fenton had a blood-alcohol level more than three times the legal limit and was already being followed by police who noticed his tail lights were out when he struck Beckett’s vehicle.
He was also estimated to be travelling nearly double the 50 km/h speed limit.
In ICBC’s statement of facts in the case, the insurance corporation accused Beckett of "failing to keep a proper or any lookout," "failing to see the Defendant's motor vehicle at a reasonable time," "failing to give warning by sounding the horn," and 11 other allegations of neglect.
"The deceased, Const. Sarah Beckett, had a duty of care to the Defendant, Kenneth Jacob Fenton, and to others using the highway," ICBC initially said in its response to the claim. "The act of colliding with the vehicle operated by the Defendant, Kenneth Jacob Fenton, and owned by the Defendant, Kenneth Jacob Fenton, was a breach of that duty."
For those reasons, ICBC argued that it should not have to pay for Beckett's damaged Ford Crown Victoria. By early December, Fenton, the co-defendant in the civil claim, had not yet filed a response to the lawsuit.
After CTV News shared the news of ICBC’s defence in the civil suit Friday, the insurance corporation issued a statement saying it was reversing its prepared defence.
“We’re deeply sorry,” said ICBC in the statement.
“Clearly, the decision to suggest Constable Beckett was liable for this collision in the initial legal documents was a mistake and we are taking immediate steps to fix this error. We will be instructing our counsel to amend that defence to admit the defendant is fully liable for this accident.”
Before ICBC issued its statement Friday, the West Shore RCMP said it was aware of the civil suit and was still saddened by the loss of Beckett.
"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 West Shore RCMP Insp. Todd Preston in a statement.
"On our end we remain deeply affected by the loss of our friend and respected colleague, Sarah," said Preston. "The timing of this story coming out so close to Christmas leaves myself and the membership of West Shore RCMP saddened.”
CTV News did not reach out to the Beckett family for comment.