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Kelowna parents of Vernon nurse killed by drunk driver awarded $90K in lawsuit

Parents of Erin Smith, killed in 2014 crash, sought compensation for losses after their daughter’s death
Kelowna courthouse. (Black Press file photo)

The parents of a Vernon nurse who was killed by a drunk driver have won $90,000 in a lawsuit against the driver, a local strip club and the pub the driver was drinking at on the night of the fatal crash.

Kelowna residents Brian and Michelle Smith sued Lori Victoria Vance, convicted of impaired driving causing death, along with the Village Green Pub and On the Roxx Show Lounge. The Smiths argued the death of their daughter, Erin Smith, caused them financial loss because Erin had planned to purchase their Kelowna home before she was killed in the 2014 crash.

A Jan. 11 B.C. Supreme Court decision found that while it was not possible to come up with a precise calculation of the financial loss to the Smiths, Justice Allan Betton was certain that Erin would have provided assistance to her parents in some form, though that assistance might not have come in the form of fulfilling the proposed home purchase.

“I have no doubt that Erin would have provided assistance to the plaintiffs and that her death has resulted in a pecuniary loss to them,” said Justice Betton in the decision. “The fact of Erin’s actual assistance and her willingness to consider the proposal support this conclusion.”

Erin started working at Vernon Jubliee Hospital in 2011. She was on a coffee break with a colleague, Lindsay Hauck, on Oct. 23, 2014, when her vehicle was t-boned by a car driven by Vance around 1:15 a.m. Vance had been drinking at the Village Green Pub that night, and blood samples showed her blood-alcohol content to be more than twice the legal limit. At the time of the fatal crash she was found to have been driving well over the speed limit.

Vance was sentenced to three years jail in February 2017.

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Much of the decision plays out possible scenarios to determine the likelihood that Erin would purchase her parents’ home and then rent it back to them for the next 25 years. Ultimately, the outcome of Erin’s arrangement with her parents could not be pinned down with any certainty.

“In this case, there are many variables and contingencies. A precise calculation of loss is simply not possible,” said Justice Betton. “There are a wide range of possible paths (the parents) and Erin may have followed. They range from a decision not to proceed to retain the home at all, to some form of arrangement loosely based on what was proposed by (the parents). In my view, there is no evidentiary foundation to calculate the likelihood of any particular scenario in any mathematical way.”

Justice Betton noted that Erin had already provided her parents financial assistance to the tune of $29,000, demonstrating her desire to help her parents pay off outstanding debts in their retirement years.

The parents argued that a $500,000 award was appropriate, while the defence argued the award should be in the range of $5,000 to $25,000. Justice Betton settled on a $90,000 award.

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Brendan Shykora
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Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started at the Morning Star as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
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