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Woman behind Costco crash says she isn't a criminal: Presser

Though she has been denied an appeal, the woman who was found guilty in connection with a fatal Costco crash in 2014 maintains she is not a criminal and that what happened at the London, Ont. store was a “tragic accident,” her counsel, Toronto criminal lawyer Jill Presser tells AM 980.

Presser, principal of Presser Barristers, represented Ruth Burger for her appeal. Burger, now 67, was convicted in 2015 of two counts of dangerous driving causing death and two counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm after the crash that killed a six-year-old child and her newborn sister.

Ontario’s Court of Appeal dismissed Burger’s appeal. 

In an interview with AM980, Presser says her client was disappointed with the decision but notes that Burger remains “incredibly remorseful.”

“Those feelings remain unchanged,” she says.

“Ms. Burger has always acknowledged that this was an incredibly tragic incident and horrendous loss of life and she never, ever, not from minute one, wanted to diminish that in any way. She’s felt very horribly for the family involved.”

Presser says she will seek advice from her client about whether to apply for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

“I’ll certainly give her some information and advice about that, given that it’s my obligation as her lawyer to make sure she’s fully apprised of all the various options, but she hasn’t indicated any interest or lack of interest one way or the other about going further or not,” she tells the radio station.

Presser says Burger took her case to the Court of Appeal (OCA) because it was her position that the crash was a tragic accident and "not something that should be called a crime,” she says.

Presser says her client appealed, not in any way to diminish the tragedy, but because, although she feels "horrendously for the family and mourns the loss of life and her involvement with it," she maintains she's not a criminal and it's important to her to have the record set straight. 

For the appeal, Presser argued the trial judge erred in convicting Burger and asked that the OCA quash her convictions and enter acquittals in their place, or to order a new trial. 

In an interview with AdvocateDaily.com, Presser explains that at trial, Burger maintained her foot got caught under the brake, which caused her to depress the gas pedal as she was reversing.

“She doesn’t know how her foot got caught,” she says. “She wasn’t intoxicated or impaired in any way. She wasn’t wearing flip flops or inappropriate shoes with heels. She had a very short window of time as she was reversing where she could not stop the car.”

Presser says the evasive corrective action Burger took was that she tried to extricate her foot so that she could then step on the brake to stop accelerating, but she was unsuccessful. 

“And as she wiggled her foot around, she kept depressing the accelerator,” she says. “The trial judge, although finding her sincere, rejected her story that her foot became trapped. He convicted her on the basis that she must have initially depressed the gas too hard and then failed to take any corrective evasive steps.”

Presser describes her client as an "average retiree" who was out shopping and driving her husband’s old Monte Carlo.

“She is a grandmother who was sober and shopping at Costco before getting behind the wheel of her car and trying to get home,” she says. “I believe there is nothing she could have done to prevent this. There is nothing anyone could have done.”

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