Robert Wright with wife Heather Prisk.

Medical staff added to Terrace law suit

RCMP claim doctor and nurse also responsible for prisoner's condition

  • Thu Jun 11th, 2015 9:00am
  • News

MORE defendants have been added to a suit filed by a local man against the RCMP and one of its officers after he suffered a brain injury following an arrest made three years ago.

But this time the addition of Mills Memorial Hospital, a local physician and a nurse came after a B.C. Supreme Court application made by the RCMP.

In effect, while Robert Wright is suing the RCMP and Const. Brian Heideman for head injuries he said were the result of excessive force and for negligence in the way he was treated, the RCMP are now saying the medical staff on duty when Wright was brought to the hospital for treatment three times after being arrested in April 2012 are themselves negligent.

“The crown defendants submit that [Wright’s] brain hemorrhage was caused or contributed to by the actions of the proposed third parties, Dr. [Christiaan] de Wit, nurse Jane Doe and [Mills Memorial Hospital], for failing to properly assess, diagnose and treat the plaintiff for his head injury,” reads a Supreme Court application first made by the RCMP last month and granted last week.

Wright did undergo a CT scan at Mills upon his third arrival at the hospital within an approximate nine-hour period April 21-22, 2012.

He was then quickly flown to Vancouver for surgery at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster.

Wright has been unable to work since and requires constant care and supervision.

His suit against the RCMP and Heideman, who has since been transferred out of the detachment to the Okanagan, is scheduled to be heard next February.

Speaking yesterday from Vancouver, Wright’s lawyer, Scott Stanley, said the response of medical staff at Mills would first depend upon information they received from police when his client was brought in.

“It was the responsibility of the RCMP to make sure the nurse and the doctor knew exactly what was going on,” said Stanley.

In a response to the RCMP application, lawyers for deWit say the RCMP “misstate the facts as set out in medical records” by stating de Wit “noted that his impression was signs of head injury and progression” when Wright was brought back to the hospital a second time.

“There is no evidence Dr. de Wit formed the impression the plaintiff exhibited signs of head injury and progression, rather, Dr. de Wit charted that “signs of HI [presumably head injury] and progression [were] discussed with RCMP,” they add.

Further, de Wit’s statement indicates he was not the doctor who attended Wright on his third visit to the hospital.

Wright did receive stitches for a laceration to his head during his first visit to the hospital’s emergency room.

Wright’s contact with the RCMP on April 21, 2012 began in the early evening hours when he was pulled over by an RCMP officer.

He showed signs of impairment, was arrested and taken to the detachment, court records show.

It was in a cell at the detachment that Wright suffered a head injury which, he suit states, was caused when “Heideman violently, unexpectedly and negligently threw [Wright] to the ground, causing the plaintiff’s head to strike a concrete bench, metal toilet and/or the cell floor ….”

Terrace RCMP detachment commander Inspector Dana Hart requested an outside investigation of the incident which was undertaken by the New Westminster Police Department.

Information gathered was then sent to crown counsel officials recommending one charge be laid against a constable.

Crown counsel lawyers declined, saying there was not enough evidence.

“Although it was the opinion of a neurosurgeon that Mr. Wright’s more serious brain injury was not a result of trauma occurring in his dealing with police, even if it had been the result of police action, it would not render those actions unlawful in the circumstances of this case,” said the provincial criminal justice branch in what it called a “clear statement” released concerning the situation.

“Given that the Crown cannot prove that the force used by police in dealing with Mr. Wright was either unnecessary or excessive, there is no substantial likelihood of conviction [against the police officer] on any offence in these circumstances,” the statement added.

And Crown counsel lawyers also declined to charge Wright for impaired driving offences, saying that because of the actions of the RCMP, there was little likelihood of a conviction.