The family of a woman who died in a “catastrophic” car crash caused by an erratic motorcyclist in Surrey, B.C., has been awarded nearly $2.5 million in damages.
The husband and teenage children of Mariam Ghaly, 42, sued the motorcyclist in B.C. Supreme Court after Ghaly’s death nearly six years ago.
In her ruling posted Monday, Justice Emily Burke acknowledged how the crash and subsequent grief transformed the lives of Ghaly’s surviving family, leaving them living with conditions from anxiety to insomnia and post-traumatic stress disorder.
“While Mr. Ghaly has done his best to continue living his life, it would be repugnant in the circumstances not to acknowledge his deep pain, which continues to this day and has been medically diagnosed as affecting his day-to-day functioning relative to his pre-accident life,” Burke wrote, referring to Mariam Ghaly’s husband, Wagih.
“Mr. Ghaly testified his wife was his life. When she died, he felt it was the end of the world for him, and the life they had built together had collapsed.”
Motorcyclist forced family vehicle off the road, ruling says
The family of four had been at a Sunday service at St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Surrey the morning of the crash in October 2017. They had been members of the church for years, still attending services even after moving to Bellingham, Wash., in 2006.
Mariam Ghaly took King George Boulevard on the way home. Her husband was in the front seat, and their children — daughter Marina, 15, and son Kyrollos, 13 — sat in the back.
As the family passed the area around 48 Avenue, they crossed paths with motorcylist Paul Mand as he weaved through traffic.
The ruling said Mand, while speeding, tried to pass Ghaly’s Honda CRV on the right.
Ghaly reacted by turning left, which sent the family vehicle toward the concrete median.
She corrected again to avoid the median, and the SUV swerved off the road. The vehicle went tumbling down an embankment and landed in a watery ditch.
“The vehicle came to rest upside down,” Burke wrote. “The Ghaly family was suspended in the air by their seat belts, and water filled the vehicle.”
Ghaly, who had enough room above water to breathe, said he heard his wife praying before she went quiet.
“He heard her last words as she extended her hand to his and then held his hand without speaking further,” Burke wrote.
The family was freed and taken to hospital after Good Samaritans smashed the back window.
Mariam Ghaly died after six days in a coma. The cause of death was hypoxic encephalopathy — a brain injury due to lack of oxygen — caused by drowning.
Burke said the defendants in her family’s lawsuit, including Mand and ICBC, admitted liability but disagreed with “the nature, extent, and duration” of the family’s injuries.
In her decision, Burke awarded the family $1.3 million for their general losses and another $1.1 million under the Family Compensation Act.