Lawsuit driven by grief
The family of Tim McLean has suffered a terrible loss, but it’s hard to see how their decision to launch a shotgun-style lawsuit will palliate the pain or accomplish anything productive.
Tim McLean’s death earlier this summer was arbitrary and freakish, akin to being struck by lightning or mauled by a bear. Mr. McLean is the 22-year-old man who was stabbed to death by a fellow passenger on a Greyhound bus near Winnipeg. The attacker was reportedly psychotic, possibly in the thralls of a severe schizophrenic episode.
Mr. McLean did not know the assailant. In other words, the assault was completely random. The sad reality is that life is unpredictable, and random deaths occur every day. The McLean family is suing the bus company and the federal government (among others), but sometimes terrible things happen and there is no one to blame but fate itself.
Ultimate responsibility of course falls on the man who wielded the knife. The suspect, Vincent Li, is also named in the lawsuit. But because Mr. Li is under psychiatric care and could be unfit to stand trial, even his culpability, in the sense of knowingly committing evil, is questionable.
The McLean family is upset that, unlike airplane travellers, bus passengers aren’t screened for weapons, and the family seems to think this constitutes negligence. This argument fails to recognize that the risk assessment for air travel is entirely different than for buses. Airplanes are historically a favourite target of political terrorists, and airline passengers 35,000 feet above the earth are far more vulnerable than people travelling by land.
If a mentally ill person randomly stabbed a person at a movie theatre, it would be unreasonable to sue the theatre, or to insist that theatres install metal detectors.
Bad luck comes. Good people contract rare forms of cancer. Others fall in their bathtubs and end up dying of head injuries. Mr. McLean was dealt the worst kind of hand, and the mystery of why that would happen to a decent man like him is something no lawsuit will ever resolve.