Montreal's transit authority has been ordered to pay two former paramedics a total of more than $1.2 million for an accidental scare that left them both unable to work in the profession.
Yolande Poisson and Jean Langlois were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following an incident five years ago in Montreal's subway system and haven't been able to work in high-stress jobs since.
The Urgences-sante technicians were tending to a death on the tracks at the east-end Cadillac station on March 3, 2012.
As they were trying to remove a body from underneath a subway car, a transit employee trying to repair a broken windshield accidentally sounded the horn twice in short order, suggesting the train was about to move.
But no one warned the paramedics, who testified they frantically moved to get out from under the car with the body because they were convinced they were about to be crushed.
They testified they also saw the boots of Montreal police officers, who were fleeing on the tracks after they too heard the horns.
Both paramedics told Quebec Superior Court Justice Suzanne Courchesne that transit officials never told them what happened and they only discovered later it had been a false alarm.
Poisson and Langlois returned to their ambulance and began to cry before heading to a local hospital for treatment. It was their last day as paramedics.
The transit agency countered in court that the electrical current was cut to the subway system and that strict rules need to be met before it can be re-established.
It insisted the lives of the paramedics weren't in jeopardy.
A transit employee in charge of the scene told the court he did remember telling them after the fact their lives hadn't been in danger, but Courchesne called it "too little, too late."
Poisson now works as a part-time kitchen assistant, while Langlois is a handyman.
In a decision dated Monday, Courchesne wrote that if transit officials had told the medics right away they weren't in any danger, the financial compensation would have been considerably less.
"The evidence is clear the paramedics feared for their lives and it resulted in post-traumatic stress disorder at the root of their (financial claim)," Courchesne wrote.
"Had they been reassured without delay that their safety was not threatened ... the tribunal is satisfied on the balance of probabilities their (financial) damages would have been considerably less, if not non-existent."
She awarded Poisson $624,069 and Langlois $645,500, with most of the money for both based on the loss of future income.
Transit authority spokeswoman Amelie Regis said in an email Thursday it is looking at whether to appeal the ruling.