Family launches lawsuit in death of four-year-old Keira Kagan

Keira Kagan (Photo supplied by Jennifer Kagan)

The family of a young girl found dead alongside her father in an Ontario park last year is suing Jewish Family and Child Service in Toronto and a local conservation authority, claiming her death was preventable.

In a shocking, widely-reported incident, Keira Kagan, aged four, was found dead on Feb. 9, 2020 along with her father, Robin Brown, at the bottom of an escarpment in the Rattlesnake Point Conservation Area in Milton, Ont.

In a statement on Twitter on July 6, Keira’s family said it has begun a claim against JF&CS “to seek justice and to ensure that other children are kept safe from harm.”

The family is suing “to expose what happened to Keira. This was a preventable death of a child.” The legal action seeks to ensure “that other children, like Keira, are safe and protected from harm,” the tweet added.

In a statement of claim filed at Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice on July 5, the family, including Keira’s mother, Jennifer Kagan, and Keira’s stepfather, Philip Viater, seek monetary damages for Keira’s “wrongful death.”

Named as defendants are JF&CS and three of its employees; the Halton Region Conservation Authority and one of its employees; and others.

The action alleges that “at all material times, JF&CS was assisting the Kagan and Brown families in ensuring the safety and protection of Keira.” It states that JF&CS “knew or ought to have known that Keira was a child in need of protection” and that Brown “was a danger to her health and safety.” The agency “failed to take preventive measures to keep Keira safe and protected,” the lawsuit claims.

None of the allegations have been proven and JF&CS has yet to file a statement of defence.

Citing confidentially, Talyah Breslin, CEO of JF&CS, told The CJN she was unable to comment on any agency contact with a family.

Halton Region Police referred The CJN to the coroner’s office, whose report found that Keira died of blunt force trauma to the head.

The lawsuit notes that Keira’s parents were married in November 2013 and separated in February 2016. At the time of her death, Keira lived with her mother and stepfather in Thornhill.

Brown’s access to Keira had been suspended and supervised for a period of time, and he had “absconded with Keira without justification” several times, the family’s court filing states.

JF&CS got involved in the case in 2019 following an incident in which police were called to Jennifer Kagan’s home in Vaughan. The same year, a court reduced Brown’s access to Keira. The statement of claim goes on to describe a long list of bitter legal battles between Jennifer Kagan and Brown centering around Keira.

The lawsuit alleges that a JF&CS case worker interviewed Brown on Feb. 6, 2020 and knew Brown “was exhibiting behaviour consistent with a parent who kills or harms a child.”

On Feb. 9, 2020, Brown took Keira to Rattlesnake Point “with weather reports calling for a snowstorm knowing it was dangerous,” says the statement of claim, and that “he caused Keira to fall off the cliff without justification or provocation.”

At the time of the incident, Kagan and Viater said Brown never went for hikes and that his actions that day made no sense.

The family continues to live with “great pain and suffering” as a result of Keira’s death, the statement of claim says.

While no amount of money can make up for the loss of Keira, the family “will continue to seek accountability and justice,” said their press release.

The conservation authority, meantime, failed to post adequate signs or “install barriers or other safety equipment from preventing people from falling over the cliff,” the statement of claim adds.

Conservation Halton told The CJN it had not yet seen the family’s statement of claim. Once it does, “we will be in a position to respond.”

The case has been referred to Ontario’s Domestic Violence Death Review Committee for recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.

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