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Nova Scotia families seek to certify class action against mass killer's estate

HALIFAX — Families of victims of a Nova Scotia mass shooting are hoping to gain a small measure of justice by suing the estate of the dead gunman, says a lawyer working on a civil action.
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HALIFAX — Families of victims of a Nova Scotia mass shooting are hoping to gain a small measure of justice by suing the estate of the dead gunman, says a lawyer working on a civil action. 

Robert Pineo said that as of Friday morning there were nine families seeking to certify a class action lawsuit against the estate of Gabriel Wortman, asking the court for compensation for the deaths and damage he caused during his rampage on April 18 and 19.

Wortman killed 22 people in five locations around the province in a rampage that began in the small community of Portapique, about 40 kilometres west of Truro. He was shot and killed by police on April 19 in Enfield, N.S.

Pineo says the specific damages being sought against the estate of the 51-year-old Halifax denturist are yet to be determined, but he expects they will be in the millions of dollars. 

The lawyer also says a successful claim would likely far exceed the estate's net worth, which includes real estate holdings Pineo estimates to have a value of more than $1 million.

"The families that I have information from aren't doing this strictly for money but rather to get answers and to see a form of justice against the gunman, even if it's through his estate," he said.

He said it's possible more families will join the action, or that other law firms will begin efforts to certify class actions that could later be consolidated into one case.

The representative plaintiff is Nicholas Beaton, whose wife Kristen Beaton was killed while she was on her way to work on April 19. Kristen Beaton, who worked for a nursing agency, was pregnant with the couple's second child at the time of her death.

The proposed lawsuit names three categories of plaintiffs.

The first includes direct relatives of those killed, such as parents, children and spouses.

The second is all people who suffered personal injuries from the gunman, excluding a woman who police have described as his common law spouse.

The third category is for all people who suffered damage to property, again excluding his common law spouse.

Pineo said the woman's exclusion from the lawsuit is because it's possible, due to her relationship to the killer, that she may somehow be part of the estate.

The RCMP have said the common law spouse was harmed by the gunman during a domestic dispute on April 18, but escaped, hid in the woods and called police for help at 6:30 a.m. the next day, providing investigators with key information about the killer's use of a replica police vehicle

Beaton said in an interview that he agreed to be the representative plaintiff because families wanted to ensure the gunman's assets were frozen. "It's my name on this, but we, all the families, are in this together," he said.

The lawsuit's allegations have not been proven in court, and no statement of defence has been filed. Pineo said the process to certify the action is going to unfold over the next six months.

The notice seeking to certify the class action was filed in Truro with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 8, 2020.

Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press




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