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'Deficient signage' blamed in $8-million lawsuit over snowmobiler's death

Mar 19, 2019
The Montreal Gazette

Glenn Dumont, 69, died in a snowmobile crash in 2016. A coroner ruled it an accidental death, but a lawsuit now seeks $8 million in damages.
Jesse Feith, Montreal Gazette

On the morning of March 2, 2016, Glenn Dumont led a group of six snowmobilers on a marked trail through a remote, wooded area north of Quebec City.

Dumont was visiting from Maine on an annual snowmobiling trip with his oldest son and brother. The group was heading toward a rest stop in L’Étape, about 130 kilometres north from where they had left that morning. It was snowing heavily.

An experienced snowmobiler, Dumont was leading the way.

Just before noon, he approached a sharp curve in the trail at the top of a small hill. Two other snowmobilers entered the curve at the same time, in the opposite direction. The two lead snowmobiles crashed into each other.

Both drivers were ejected from their vehicles, colliding in mid-air before dropping to the ground.

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Dumont, 69, did not survive. His son consoled him for 45 minutes before he stopped breathing. His brother and a friend then administered CPR for nearly an hour until rescue finally arrived.

In a report published last year, the Quebec coroner’s office concluded Dumont’s death was accidental. Investigators had ruled out any elements of negligence or dangerous driving on behalf of both drivers, it noted.

But a new, multi-million dollar lawsuit on behalf of Dumont’s family now positions it as a “wrongful death.” It claims evidence collected at the scene shows there was inadequate signage on the trail and that the other driver involved, a defendant in the suit, must have crossed over into Dumont’s lane for the crash to happen.

“We don’t have all the answers, but what we know is the signage was deficient and the crash happened in my client’s lane,” the family’s lawyer, Jeff Orenstein, said in an interview.

“Part of the purpose of a trial would be seeking answers,” he added. “But most importantly, seeking justice.”

Glenn Dumont, a 69-year-old from Maine, died in a snowmobile crash north of Quebec City in 2016. His family is now seeking roughly $8 million in damages. Dignity Memorial / Veilleux Funeral Home / MONwp

The suit seeks roughly $8 million in damages for Dumont’s wife, children, siblings and grandchildren. It targets the driver involved in the crash, his liability insurers, and the association and federation responsible for maintaining the trail.

At its heart is the signage in place announcing the curve.

Based on an expert report prepared on behalf of Dumont’s insurers in the weeks following his death, the lawsuit argues the trail was not in compliance with Quebec’s regulation on off-highway vehicle trail signs.

The law sets out different requirements for curves depending on how sharp they are: lesser or greater than 140 degrees. Sharper curves require signage that resembles a U-turn sign. More gradual curves only require an arrow signalling a turn.

The curve in question had signs for a curve of under 140 degrees, the suit says, despite being measured at 180 degrees.

The suit also takes issue with the number and placement of the white-on-red chevron trail signs in the curve, and argues that, per the law, it should have been equipped with a sign advising drivers to lower their speed.

“The deficient signage created a dangerous situation whereby (the defendant) would have been left unaware of the severity of the curve,” the suit says. “Had the signage been proper, it would have alerted (him) to the danger and he could have been able to take measures to adjust his driving accordingly.”

The Quebec Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, named in the suit as being responsible for the signage, said it could not comment on the matter because it could end up in court.

According to the coroner’s report, when police arrived at the scene, the two snowmobiles involved had been moved and several others had driven over the area, making it impossible to reconstruct the sequence of events.

But the expert report cited in the lawsuit argues photos taken soon after the impact, information provided by Dumont’s son, who witnessed the crash, and debris found at the site “clearly show the impact occurred on Mr. Dumont’s side.”

The report says it’s impossible to know why the defendant crossed into Dumont’s lane. “Was it the result of excessive speed, a distraction, bad visibility or a combination of these factors?” it asks.

The man in question, from Quebec, has said he doesn’t remember the crash, the suit says. The Gazette’s repeated attempts to reach him were unsuccessful. Through their lawyer, the Dumont family declined to comment.

The suit describes Dumont as a “well-liked person, reliable employee, and a much-loved family man.”

It seeks damages for the family’s pain, suffering and its loss of “moral support, care, protection, advice, guidance, comfort and companionship.”

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