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By Shannon Higgins

The family of a dead taxi driver is suing a former Ryerson student for $1.4 million.

Wang-Piao Dumani Ross, an arts diploma student, was allegedly street racing with Alexander Ryazanov when Ryazanov T-boned Tahir Khan’s taxi, wrapping it around a utility pole in January 2006. Khan was killed instantly.

Ross and Ryazanov were each driving a Mercedes on Mount Pleasant Road at speeds of up to 140 km/h.

“These two guys were racing and killed Mr. Khan,” said Russ Howe, the lawyer representing the Khan family, adding that the actual criminal sentence the two received was too light. “It’s way too much of a slap on the wrists.”

Ross and Ryazanov pleaded guilty to a charge of reckless driving causing death. A court sentenced the two, both 20, to one year of house arrest, during which they could attend work or school, followed by a year of curfew and then two years of probation. They were also banned from driving for four years and forced to complete 150 hours of community service.

“Imagine if it were two taxi drivers that were racing and killed a rich kid,” Howe said. “There’s some sort of a double standard at play here.” The Crown Attorney had argued for a three-year sentence and is currently appealing.

Khan, 46, supported his extended family in Pakistan with his earnings and was just three days away from becoming a Canadian citizen when he was killed.

Defence lawyer Brian Greenspan said Ross is not available to comment pending the result of the current appeal.

“It is not appropriate that either he or his counsel participate in an interview until the appeal has been heard,” Greenspan said in a statement.

The lawsuit was filed in the Ontario Superior Court on behalf of Khan’s family, which still resides in Pakistan. “Mr. Khan’s brother is supporting two and a half families now,” Howe said. “They don’t get stuff we take for granted like health care and education.”

The lawsuit alleges that Ross and Ryazanov were street racing when they killed Khan, a claim their lawyers denied during the criminal proceedings. Howe said it will be easier to prove Ross and Ryazanov were racing in the civil case, where he won’t have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt as a criminal lawyer would. The defendants must also take the stand for questioning under oath, which didn’t occur during the criminal case because there was no trial.

None of the allegations has been proven in court.

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