Court backlog delays family’s civil suit against Brampton hospital over son’s suicide

Justice delayed is justice denied for one family that has waited nearly seven years for their day in court. Cristina Howorun speaks with a family looking for answers in their son's death while he was under suicide watch.

By Meredith Bond

Almost seven years after their son died by suicide while in a psychiatric ward at Brampton Civic Hospital, the Tiwari family has been told they will have to wait at least another year before taking the hospital to court.

Prashant Tiwari died on June 26, 2014. He was 20 years old. Tiwari had been placed on suicide watch and was supposed to be under close staff supervision, monitored every 15 minutes.

The Tiwari family announced they were suing Brampton Civic and 18 staff members for wrongful death and breach of privacy in 2015.

Rakesh, Prashant’s father, said when he wasn’t getting answers from the medical system about how this could have happened, he turned to the justice system. He knew it would be a long and difficult process, but he didn’t expect this.

“I never cared about money or anything. For me, for both of my sons…I lived my life here. Where do I go from here? Whenever I look at his picture… where do I go from here? For me, I’m totally devastated,” said Rakesh

Their statement of claim alleges staff was negligent by attending a potluck rather than supervising Tiwari and he had been left alone for nearly three hours.

The trial was expected to start this month, but they were recently informed it had been delayed until May 2021 due to a courtroom backlog in Ontario.

A lawyer for the Tiwari family, Michael Smitiuch, called it a “slow crawl to justice.”

“This family deserves answers and accountability and shouldn’t have to wait years to get it. This is a serious access to justice problem that the Ontario government needs to immediately address,” said Smitiuch in a press release.

Smitiuch told CityNews he has filed several wrongful death lawsuits and delays like this have become quite common.

“We were told there was jury, there seemed to be a judge, but there was no courtroom,” said Smitiuch. “This is common in Brampton, unfortunately. Brampton is a very busy court. They have excellent staff, excellent judges, but they don’t have the resources to hear these trials.”

Smitiuch said the solution is more funding from the provincial government.

“The Ford government needs to step up and address this issue. It’s an access to justice issue. People can’t get trial dates for civil actions and it’s unacceptable.”

“The Tiwari family were ready for a trial starting 2020 and now they have to wait almost a year and a half.”

In a value-for-money audit of the Ontario justice system in December, the Auditor General found that 55 courthouses (out of a total of 74) which reported above-average delays in disposing cases also operated fewer hours than the optimal average. Some courtrooms were actually sitting empty during the Auditor General’s visits to a sample of courthouses.

Ontario courtrooms were only in operation 2.8 hours on an average business day, below the optimal average of 4.5 hours.

The Ministry of the Attorney General said they are working with their legal partners to explore ways to address delays and backlogs in the justice system.

“Reducing delay requires a multi-faceted, coordinated approach and the co-operation of all partners in the justice system including, the police, judges, prosecutors and defence counsel,” read a statement from the Ministry.

They also added they have expanded access to their Simplified Procedure process which they say will reduce wait times in the Superior Court of Justice as many civil cases can be moved to Small Claims Court. It also will allow for more resources to be applied towards other pressing cases.

Rakesh said he has little faith that his court case will actually proceed in 2021 and added his son won’t be laid to rest until the case has concluded.

“But now his ashes are sitting at the crematorium because I made the pledge. I did not do the religious rituals to finally let him go from my side [until I can say] ‘You know what, son, we got justice for you.’ There is a possibility that other people will get justice too,” said Rakesh

William Osler Health System, which runs Brampton Civic hospital, said they were unable to discuss the matter further as it was before the courts, but acknowledged they didn’t meet their standards in this case.

“As a part of our standard processes, we share the findings from reviews as well as the actions taken to address recommendations, to further enhance our systems and procedures,” read a statement from a William Osler spokesperson.

They added this was an extremely tragic outcome and was devastating for the family and the “Osler community has been deeply affected by this tragedy.”

Ontario’s chief coroner rejected the family’s request for an inquest into Prashant’s death back in 2015, because it was deemed there was no systematic public safety issue.

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