Family of Flyers rookie who died in gruesome accident loses court appeal

It’s always tragic when a young athlete dies, but it was especially so in the case of former Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Dmitri Tertyshny. Tertyshny, who played 62 games for the Flyers during the 1998-1999 season, was already a married man at 22 years old, with a baby on the way.

According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tertyshny was riding in the bow of a 17-foot speedboat that he and some fellow Philly prospects had rented to cruise around Lake Okanagan in British Columbia. They were in the area for a camp overseen by the Flyers’ skating coach in July of 1999. At about 7:25 p.m., the boat hit a wave that sent Tertyshny overboard and through the boat’s propellor. He managed to swim back to the boat despite his horrifying injuries, but died minutes later.

“I always thought he’d be with us for a long time,” ex-Flyers general manager Bob Clarke told the Inquirer at the time. “You never expect these kind of things. It’s such a shocking thing. An afternoon in a rental boat turns into tragedy.”

The paper also quoted then-captain Eric Lindros: “It’s a shock. Here you have a young player come over here and get adjusted. He transforms himself into a gamer … (he was) just a terrific person. Kind of quiet in the dressing room, but he had a terrific sense of humour.”

Over the next decade or so, Dmitri Tertyshny’s wife, Polina, made several attempts to ascertain whether she could claim death benefits under an insurance policy she and the young player had bought. She believed her husband was covered for permanent total disability (“PTD”) and accidental death and dismemberment (“AD&D”) — the insurance companies claimed he was covered only under the former.

She filed a complaint in court in 2010, with Tertyshny’s young son as a co-plaintiff, against three insurance companies, “raising claims of breach of contract, quantum meruit/unjust enrichment, and bad faith.” The complaint was later amended to include a law firm and Tertyshny’s agent at the time, Jay Grossman. None of the allegations were proven in court. The defendants moved for summary judgement, which was granted on Dec. 16, 2013, in part because the statute of limitations had run on all her claims.

Polina Tertyshnaya appealed, but a couple of months ago a judge upheld the earlier decision, writing: “Here, there is no dispute that Tertyshnaya has maintained the belief since 1999 that she and Tertyshny bought an insurance policy with PTD and AD&D coverage. Despite this belief, and the fact that Tertyshnaya or her attorneys possessed documentation identifying the Insurance Defendants concerning this alleged policy, Tertyshnaya never filed a claim for death benefits with the Insurance Defendants and did not file suit against them for nearly 11 years. These facts are either admitted to, by Tertyshnaya or her former attorneys, or supported by the record, and are fatal to her claims.”