The widow of a cyclist killed by a drunk driver on the side of Burnaby Mountain two-and-a-half years ago is suing the driver, the car dealership he worked for and his passenger.
Charles Masala, a father of two young children, was killed beside Gaglardi Way on June 29, 2019, when a Jeep Cherokee being driven by Surrey resident Sumeet Mangat veered into the bike lane and slammed into him.
Masala’s widow, Michelle Masala, says she and her children have suffered a loss of care, guidance, companionship, income, support, household assistance, inheritance and more because of the accident, and she claims Mangat is liable for those losses, according to a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court last month.
Michelle Masala says her husband’s death was caused by Mangat’s negligence, including his driving drunk and without due care and attention, speeding and failing to take adequate steps to avoid the collision.
She claims the dealership Mangat worked for as a salesman – DriveCo (Owned by Pioneer Garage Limited) – and the company that owned the Jeep – Pioneer Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ltd. – are vicariously liable because they let Mangat use the Jeep while “knowing or having the means of knowing” he was drunk and not qualified to drive.
She says the companies were also negligent because they failed to adequately control access to the keys to the Jeep and the demonstration plate Mangat used.
The companies also failed to conduct adequate background checks on Mangat and his co-worker, Maban Peter Teny, and didn’t properly supervise them, “permitting, encouraging or enabling” them to drink on the job, according to the notice of civil claim.
Michelle Masala claims Teny, Mangat’s passenger at the time of the fatal crash, is also liable for her husband’s death for “encouraging” Mangat to drive even though he knew “or had the means to know” Mangat was impaired.
The notice of civil claim says Teny is also liable because he didn’t stop at the scene of the crash to help the gravely injured Charles Masala or call 911 immediately.
Michelle Masala is seeking damages, including punitive and aggravated damages for her losses, but the civil claim doesn’t include specific amounts.
In a related criminal case, Mangat, 25, has pleaded guilty to impaired driving causing death and leaving the scene of the crash and is scheduled to be sentenced in Vancouver provincial court on Jan. 24.
In June 2019, Mangat was working for DriveCo, according to agreed facts presented in the criminal case.
On the day of the accident, Mangat had been seen drinking alcohol at work, the court heard.
He had been in an argument over text message with a woman he was in a relationship with and texted he was going to get “f**ked up,” according to the agreed facts.
At about 1 p.m., he grabbed a set of keys and a demonstration licence plate and drove off in a Jeep from the lot to get lunch with Teny.
The court heard Mangat had a blood alcohol level nearly twice the legal limit after he hit Masala – and he didn’t have a valid driver’s licence.
The allegations in Michelle Masala’s notice of civil claim have not been proven in court.
None of the defendants named in the lawsuit has filed a response.