On June 6, 2005, Miranda Biletski, a then 16-year-old competitive swimmer and member of the University of Regina Piranhas Swim Club, attended the university’s pool for a practice.
The club’s coaches introduced a new exercise that day, one that would see divers aiming to dive as far as they could in distance, entering the pool at a shallow angle. This would mean the further they dove, the shallower the water due to the pool floor’s sloping. On a second attempt, she dove “at a steep angle,” according to court documents.
When Biletski dove, she struck her head, resulting in a ruptured spine, causing permanent quadriplegia.
The court’s decision said she “had no reason to think the outcome of this dive would be different from any she had previously undertaken.”
The university was found “negligent” in the case and Biletski was awarded $9 million dollars in damages.
The university’s appeal, filed in 2017, argued the jury’s verdict on both liability and damages was “reached without evidence on certain issues or was otherwise unreasonable.”
The university also argued that its right to a fair trial was prejudiced by improper comments made by Biletski’s counsel to the jury.
The university and club disputed the amount of money awarded, but the court decision said those funds were righteous and “the parties had agreed on several items of damage if liability was found.”
The Saskatchewan Court of Appeal said the university’s appeal for a judge to rule on the case instead of a jury was also dismissed.
The jury made its verdict after hearing testimony from 12 lay witnesses and seven experts and receiving other evidence in writing.
U of R has issued a statement on the matter, saying it “respects the legal process and the decision made by the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal.”
The university added it’s “still reviewing the judgment with our legal counsel and our insurer to determine next steps, including possible terms and timing of payment”, and said it “recognizes the tragic nature of this incident and the unalterable impact on Ms. Biletski and her family.”
Biletski turned her sights toward rugby in recent years and was on Team Canada at the 2010 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships and 2014 World Wheelchair Rugby Championships.