Marco Muzzo wants damages reduced in lawsuit over drunk driving deaths

Update: see previous post – January 4, 2017 23-Year-Old Impaired Driver Sentenced to Seven (7) Years Following Cyclist’s Death

(From left) Harrison, Milagros and Daniel Neville-Lake were killed, along with their grandfather, when drunk driver Marco Muzzo crashed into their minivan in 2015.
(From left) Harrison, Milagros and Daniel Neville-Lake were killed, along with their grandfather, when drunk driver Marco Muzzo crashed into their minivan in 2015. (KAY PRINCE PHOTOGRAPHY/THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO).

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Both sides seek trial over Vaughan crash that killed three children and their grandfather

Lawyers for convicted killer drunk driver Marco Muzzo are arguing that the family of the three children and grandfather who died at Muzzo’s hands should not be entitled to more than a third of the damages they are seeking in a $25-million lawsuit.

In a statement of defence for the deadly 2015 car crash in Vaughan, Muzzo and his family’s drywall business, which is also being sued, admit liability for the collision but say they want a trial for an assessment of the damages.

They argue that the family of the victims should not be eligible to receive all of the damages they are seeking because Muzzo has already been punished by being imprisoned.

“The plaintiffs’ damages, if any, should be reduced by the amount of any collateral benefits they received or are entitled to,” says the brief statement of defence, filed in Superior Court.

“The plaintiffs are not entitled at law to recover punitive or exemplary damages in view of Muzzo’s criminal conviction and lengthy incarceration in a penitentiary arising from his conduct leading to the subject accident.”

Their argument would target at least $10 million being claimed by the plaintiffs.

Muzzo, whose family is worth nearly $1.8 billion according to Canadian Business magazine, pleaded guilty last year to several counts of impaired driving causing death and bodily harm and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

The Superior Court of Justice aCourt House located at 361 University Avenue. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Daniel Neville-Lake, 9, Harrison, 5, and Milagros, 2, along with their 65-year-old grandfather Gary Neville, were killed in September 2015 when a drunken Muzzo blew through a stop sign and crashed his Jeep Cherokee into the minivan being driven by the children’s grandmother, Neriza Neville.

She was seriously injured along with her mother, Josefina Frias.

Muzzo had been returning home after landing in a private jet from his bachelor party in Miami, court heard after he pleaded guilty.

A toxicologist found that Muzzo would have had between 190 and 245 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood at the time of the collision, nearly three times the legal limit.

He is being sued by the children’s parents, Edward Lake and Jennifer Neville-Lake, as well as by Jennifer’s mother Neriza Neville, brother Jonathan and sister Josephine.

None of the allegations in the plaintiffs’ statement of claim have been proven in court. They are requesting that the civil trial be heard by judge and jury. Their new lawyer, Wendy Sokoloff, declined to comment for this article. Muzzo’s civil lawyer did not return a request for comment for this article.

Muzzo’s family company Marel Contractors is also being sued. The plaintiffs allege that the company owned Muzzo’s vehicle.

They also alleged in their statement of claim last year that Marel was negligent by failing to ensure the vehicle was fit to be driven on public roadways, including making sure that the brakes were in proper working order. The defendants denied the negligence allegations in their statement of defence.

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Gay man who was mocked by jury foreman on radio has charges stayed

Update:

The Court of Appeal for Ontario quashed convictions against the accused and ordered a new trial after it was revealed that the jury foreman’s conduct raised a reasonable apprehension of bias, which resulted in a miscarriage of justice. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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649. Disclosure of jury proceedings
649. Every member of a jury, and every person providing technical, personal, interpretative or other support services to a juror with a physical disability, who, except for the purposes of
(a) an investigation of an alleged offence under subsection 139(2) in relation to a juror, or
(b) giving evidence in criminal proceedings in relation to such an offence,
discloses any information relating to the proceedings of the jury when it was absent from the courtroom that was not subsequently disclosed in open court is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 649;1998, c. 9, s. 7. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Jury foreman made homophobic jokes about the Toronto trial on the Dean Blundell Show

Sexual assault charges have been stayed against a gay Toronto man whose case received widespread attention after the jury foreman made homophobic jokes about the trial on the radio.

In October, Ontario’s Court of Appeal quashed convictions against Joshua Dowholis and ordered a new trial after it found the juror’s conduct undermined the perceived fairness of the justice system.

The juror, Derek Welsman, was the producer and co-host of a now-cancelled Toronto radio show.

On Friday, a Crown attorney told a Toronto court that the prosecution was not going to pursue a new trial against Dowholis, who has already served more than five years in prison and was on parole.

“The decision not to reprosecute really operates as a recognition of how serious these homophobic comments were and how negatively they did impact on the integrity of the justice system,” said lawyer Jill Presser, who represented Dowholis in his appeal.

“The case is significant for Joshua Dowholis because it is about his experience with the justice system. But this case is about more than that — it’s about the LGBT community’s engagement with the justice system and the kind of justice they can expect.”

The staying of charges means Dowholis will not have a criminal record in connection to the initial charges of sexually assaulting three men he met in a downtown Toronto bathhouse.

In January 2014, Dowholis, an HIV-positive man, was sentenced to six years in prison. After serving the bulk of his sentence — he was credited for serving pretrial custody — Dowholis was already on parole when the Court of Appeal ordered a new trial.

Outside the courtroom Friday, Dowholis, 36, said he was relieved and ready to move on with his life. He has maintained his innocence since his arrest.

“I’m pleased with the outcome today but at the same time, I was a little disappointed I didn’t get an opportunity for a fair trial,” he said.

The Pillars of Justice sculpture, which resides outside of the Superior Court of Justice Courthouse at 361 University Avenue in Toronto. The people of our community participate in the legal system by serving on the jury. We are the pillars of justice. The missing pillar invites you to imagine that you are the twelfth juror. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

Crown prosecutor Meghan Scott told the court that although the complainants in the case were willing to re-testify, in light of the prison time Dowholis has already served, it would be “inappropriate” to retry the case.

Welsman was a producer and on-air personality for the Dean Blundell Show on 102.1 The Edge.

Before the original trial, Welsman swore that he had no bias against gay people. As jury foreman, he was in charge of directing the jury’s discussions and acting as the spokesperson for the group.

The jury foreman, Derek Welsman, was the producer and co-host of a now-cancelled Toronto radio show. He spoke of the trial during and after the trial, on the radio show that he produced and co-hosted. twitter

On air, he and the other on-air personalities chortled as they mocked gay men who visit bathhouses and the intelligence of the alleged sex assault victims. They snickered as they imagined an unnamed Dowholis’s excitement for prison showers.

“If anyone wants to get into the backdoor business, I can give you some tips,” said Welsman, prompting more laughter from his on-air colleagues.

After the Sept. 27, 2013 verdict, Welsman talked on-air about what jurors had to decide before making their guilty finding.

It is against the law for jurors to disclose details of their deliberations. There is no indication Welsman has been charged.

When reached by the Star, Welsman declined to comment.

After discovering Welsman’s on-air comments, Dowholis’s trial lawyer sought a judicial inquiry into the juror’s conduct. The judge rejected the request, ruling that the evidence did not show the other jurors — who unanimously found the accused guilty on nearly all counts — had their verdicts tainted by Welsman’s broadcasts.

In October, Ontario’s Court of Appeal quashed those convictions, saying Welsman’s conduct was homophobic and mocked the court process.

“Such comments have no place in a fair and impartial justice system,” Justice Mary Lou Benotto wrote in a decision signed by two of the three presiding judges. The third judge on the panel concurred there should be a new trial, but for a different reason.

“The reasonable observer would expect that a person who comes before the courts would be treated with dignity and respect, and not be publicly ridiculed by the person judging him,” Benotto continued.

In order to maintain public confidence in the justice system, the mere appearance of impartiality by judges and jurors is just as important as actual fairness, Benotto wrote.

The judge said she did not need to address whether the verdict was in fact tainted by Welsman’s conduct because his behaviour gave “the apprehension of bias.”

A few weeks after the Star first wrote about Welsman’s on-air conduct, the Dean Blundell Show was cancelled.

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Posted instructions to jurors and others. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

 

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TransUnion, Equifax fined by U.S. watchdog for misleading consumers about credit scores

Update:

Credit monitoring companies such as Equifax and TransUnion offer consumers a peek at their credit histories.
Credit monitoring companies such as Equifax and TransUnion offer consumers a peek at their credit histories. ((iStock))

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Firms must pay $23 million US in fines and reimbursements

Two of the largest credit monitoring firms have been fined by a major U.S. financial watchdog for misleading consumers about the value of the services they provide.

Equifax and TransUnion — based in Atlanta and Chicago, respectively — have been fined a total of $5.5 million US for luring unwitting consumers “into costly recurring payments for credit-related products with false promises,” the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said in a release. In addition to the fine, both companies have been ordered to reimburse consumers for $17.6 million they shouldn’t have been charged for services.

Credit scores

Along with others in the industry, both companies make money by selling consumers information about their credit histories, which is used to determine the rates and loan amounts they will be offered by lenders in the future. They both also sell services aimed at keeping their private information safe and secure, also with an aim of making customers more credit-worthy.

One of their major services is to give customers their credit score, which is a number tabulated to summarize their overall credit-worthiness. A higher score means the person is a solid bet to repay a loan. A lower score means they are less so — and by extension might need to take steps to improve their credit. One of the services the companies offer to help do that is known as credit monitoring, which the companies sell for as much as $16 per month.

The reporting agencies base the scores on a consumer’s history of paying off debt, how much debt they carry and other factors.

But the CFPB said the scores sold to consumers by TransUnion and Equifax were not typically used by lenders to make credit decisions.

Instead, lenders evaluate potential borrowers by using an array of credit scores, which vary by score provider and scoring model. Different credit “scores” are not necessarily correlated to each other, a CFPB report from 2012 found, which means consumers could be misled about their actual credit-worthiness if they paid attention solely to the information being given to them from one company.

“TransUnion and Equifax deceived consumers about the usefulness of the credit scores they marketed, and lured consumers into expensive recurring payments with false promises,” said CFPB director Richard Cordray. “Credit scores are central to a consumer’s financial life and people deserve honest and accurate information about them.”

The agency says TransUnion has been misleading consumers about their actual credit scores since at least 2011. Equifax, meanwhile, was doing the same between 2011 up to 2014.

TransUnion said in a statement it continues to believe that its advertising has been clear and has complied with laws.

“Our trial credit monitoring service has given consumers low-cost access to their credit report and credit score and allowed them to conveniently cancel monitoring services at any time online or by phone,” the company said. “However, we are committed to making improvements to our consumer experience, and over the past several months we have worked co-operatively with the CFPB to be the industry leader in designing the enhanced, voluntary marketing disclosures that go beyond the current legal and regulatory requirements to which we agreed as part of this settlement.”

TransUnion noted that the company’s practices in Canada are not included in the CFPB action.

“Consumer solutions offered by TransUnion Canada remain in compliance with all applicable local laws,” TransUnion said. “As always, we remain committed to providing consumers with access to information about their credit that can help them make informed financial decisions.”

Equifax noted that the CFPB’s investigation continued for nearly three years, and said it made changes to address the agency’s concerns soon after the investigation began. “While Equifax does not believe it has violated any laws and has not admitted any liability, Equifax determined it was in its best interest to resolve the matter with the CFPB,” the company’s statement said.

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23-Year-Old Impaired Driver Sentenced to Seven (7) Years Following Cyclist’s Death

Update:

23-year-old Darya Selinevich was sentenced to seven (7) years today, after her drinking and driving on June 11, 2015 resulted in the death of 44-year-old cyclist Zhi Yong Kang. Kang left behind his 15-year-old son. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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A 23-year-old repeat drunk driver who killed a Toronto cyclist and fled police at 200 km-h was sent to jail Wednesday.

Darya Selinevich, a former highly regarded law clerk and aspiring paralegal, appeared stoic as a judge sentenced her to seven years, reduced to four and a half years in acknowledgment of time already spent in jail since the June 11, 2015 crash that killed Zhi Yong Kang, the 44-year-old father of a 15-year-old boy.

Just one month before drinking heavily and slamming a BMW into Kang at almost double the speed limit, as he pedaled along Finch Ave. W., Selinevich had received a one-year-driving ban for speeding with double the legal limit of alcohol in her system — intoxication so severe she passed out at a police station.

After leaving Kang dying on the ground shortly after midnight, Selinevich raced through the residential neighbourhood, swerved around a police car and ran a red light before pulling into a strip mall and fleeing from the car which kept moving with locked doors.

At the time of her arrest, the Richmond Hill woman’s social media accounts glorified drinking and driving with photos of a wine bottle in a car, a speedometer at 202.5 km-h and a R.I.D.E. poster with her added joke that ride-home options, in addition to a bus, cab, police car or ambulance, were “option 5, my car.”

Yulian Liao, Kang’s ex-wife and the mom of their son, sobbed quietly as Justice Leslie Pringle described the crash in grisly detail before sentencing Selinevich for her admitted crimes of impaired driving causing death, failing to stop at the scene and for police, refusing to provide a breath sample and driving while disqualified.

Just one month before drinking heavily and slamming a BMW into Kang at almost double the speed limit, as he pedaled along Finch Ave. W., Selinevich had received a one-year-driving ban for speeding with double the legal limit of alcohol in her system — intoxication so severe she passed out at a police station. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

The jail term came as pedestrians and cyclists are dying on Toronto streets at an alarming rate, and safety advocates demand legal reforms in hopes of saving lives and reflecting the toll drivers can take.

In many cases drivers who are at fault when they kill someone, but not drunk and do not flee, receive a fine of $1,000 or less under provincial traffic laws rather than face Criminal Code sanctions like Selinevich.

Det.-Const. Arthur Lane of Toronto police traffic services said outside court the Kang family remains “devastated” but he is satisfied with the jail term.

“In previous years we’ve had low sentences and so I’m glad to see that the sentences now are starting to move up in duration,” Lane said. “Society’s looking at these cases in a more serious light and that’s going to be helpful.

“The public should know that this kind of activity is absolutely abhorrent . . .”

Darya Selinevich, 23, has received a jail sentence for the June 2015 crash that killed cyclist Zhi Yong Kang, 44, on Finch Ave. W. at Tobermory Dr. Selinevich, had previously been convicted of drunk driving.
23-year-old Darya Selinevich. (FACEBOOK)

Court heard Kang was exceptionally smart, graduated from “the Harvard of China” before moving to Canada, had a “maverick” personality and played sports and cycled with his beloved son.

Dong Kang said in a victim impact statement he was “deeply hurt” by his younger brother’s violent death and has struggled with depression and other health problems since the crash shortly after their father’s death.

Still, in her statement, Kang’s ex-wife said the family hopes the young woman one day achieves her dream of becoming a paralegal and has the same strong family supports as the cyclist she killed.

“Above all, we hope she has more patience in whatever she might do in the future,” Liao wrote. “We would like her to know we are immensely comforted by our family and friends surrounding us.”

Court heard Selinevich, originally from Russia, dropped York University law and society studies after a co-op placement led to a job as a law clerk/legal assistant. In a letter to court a former employer described her as intelligent and trustworthy.

But she ran with “high risk” friends and binge drank, especially after the deaths of four friends within two years, court heard. She is now a model prisoner, studying life skills, substance abuse, international business and, by correspondence, “dozens of bible studies” with an average of 95.9 per cent.

Selinevich did not address the court, saying “Yes” quietly when the judge asked if she understood her sentence.

“You are clearly someone who is intelligent, you are clearly someone who has the potential to learn from the horrendous crimes that have been committed in this case,” the judge said. “Good luck.”

 

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Know your consumer rights in Ontario if you want to join a gym

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Queen's Park. Through lack of enforcement, Premier Wynn and Labour Minister Kevin Flynn are allowing workers to be exploited with consequences far and few between for the employers breaking the laws of Ontario. Even when an employer refuses to pay a worker what there owed, the likelihood is that that employer will not have to pay; even after the Ministry of Labour is made aware of the violations of the <a href=
Queen’s Park. Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act protects those who want to join a gym or to leave a gym. photo by fightyourtickets.ca

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Ministry of Government and Consumer Services

As the New Year begins, Ontario is reminding consumers about their rights when they join a gym or fitness club.

January is the perfect time to put healthy lifestyle goals into action. It’s also a time when gyms and fitness clubs offer tempting financial incentives like free passes and time-sensitive promotions for classes and memberships.

Before you sign a contract, make sure that the gym or facility you choose is the right fit for you:

  • Hours and class times are convenient for you
  • Trainers and instructors are knowledgeable
  • Facilities are clean and not overcrowded.

If you’re ready to make a commitment to a gym or fitness club, remember you have consumer rights that protect you under Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act.

You have a 10-day cooling-off period

You have the right to cancel a gym membership within 10 days of receiving a written copy of your contract, without providing a reason. All you need to do is give notice to the business, preferably in writing. Use this 10-day cooling-off period to test out the facility to see if it’s right for you.

You have the option to pay monthly

You can choose to pay month-to-month instead of paying up-front for the whole year. The business can charge up to 25 per cent more for monthly payments than the total cost of the annual, up-front fee. However, monthly payments provide flexibility and convenience.

All contracts must end after a year

The gym or fitness club must send you a renewal notice between 30 and 90 days before your contract expires, listing any changes to your new contract. If you receive a renewal notice and do not respond to it, the business has the right to renew your contract. Ask about the club’s renewal policy and how you will be contacted to renew.

Protecting consumers is part of our plan to create jobs, grow our economy and help people in their everyday lives.

Quick Facts:

  • The Ministry of Government and Consumer Services dealt with more than 1,110 gym and fitness club-related complaints and inquiries between 2015 and 2016. Most common topics included contract cancellations, billing disputes and the 10-day cooling-off period.
  • Contracts for a gym or sports club membership or for classes such as martial arts or dance are called personal development services under the Consumer Protection Act. The rules apply where pre-payment of more than $50 is required.
  • Consumer Protection Ontario is an awareness program from Ontario’s Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and other public organizations, known as administrative authorities, that promote consumer rights and public safety.

Additional Resources:

 

Know Your Rights Before Joining a Gym

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