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Erik MagrakenThis Blog is authored by British Columbia ICBC injury claims lawyer Erik Magraken. Erik is a partner with the British Columbia personal injury law-firm MacIsaac & Company. He restricts his practice exclusively to plaintiff-only personal injury claims with a particular emphasis on ICBC injury claims involving orthopaedic injuries and complex soft tissue injuries. Please visit often for the latest developments in matters concerning BC personal injury claims and ICBC claims

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Posts Tagged ‘Assault’

Road Rage Assault Leads to $800,000 Civil Judgement

August 22nd, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published this week assessing damages for a plaintiff who sustained serious injuries following a road rage assault.

In this week’s case (McCaffery v. Arguello) the parties were involved in a road rage incident resulting in the Defendant existing his vehicle and  repeatedly striking the Plaintiff  “with the baseball bat, causing him serious but non-life-threatening injuries to his head, chest, left arm, hand, and wrist.

The Defendant was criminally convicted for his actions.  In the civil lawsuit damages of just over $800,000 were assessed with findings that the assault caused Complex Regional Pain Syndrome along with other partially disabling injuries.

In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $200,000 Madam Justice MacNaughton provided the following reasons:

[37]         Dr. Negraeff examined Mr. McCaffery on March 9, 2016 and diagnosed the following injuries:

a)    Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1: Left Hand (“CRPS”);

b)    persistent headache attributed to mild traumatic injury to the head;

c)     moderate to severe sleep disturbance secondary to chronic pain and headaches; and

d)    moderate to severe mood disturbance with anxiety and depression secondary to chronic pain and headaches.

[38]         Dr. Negraeff explained the CRPS is a form of chronic pain that usually develops in a limb after an injury to it. There are two types of CRPS depending on whether a distinct nerve injury is confirmed. In the first type, there is no confirmed nerve injury and in the second, such a nerve injury is confirmed. The hallmarks of CRPS are pain which is out of proportion to the injury and a combination of symptoms that can include swelling, skin colour and temperature changes, sweating, hair and nail growth changes, and disturbances to the movement or coordination of the limb…

[45]         I conclude that at the age of 28, in the few moments in which the Incident occurred, Mr. McCaffery became a different person. The effects of the assault will redefine Mr. McCaffery for the rest of his life, both physically and psychologically. He no longer sees himself as a “big strong guy” who could do, and did, nearly everything.

[46]         Mr. McCaffery’s personality change has also affected what had been a very positive, close, and harmonious family relationship among Mr. McCaffery, his wife, and their three children. All of Mr. McCaffery’s family witnesses testified about how his symptoms have affected his relationship with Ethan, who has been most affected by his father’s personality change and physical limitations. Ethan was old enough to have experienced and remembered his father’s much more engaged and affectionate relationship with him before the Incident. Ethan misses the activities he used to do with his father and is cautious about not hurting him.

[47]         Mr. McCaffery’s continuing pain has caused sleeplessness, and his headaches are often accompanied by dizziness…

[56]         Based on all this evidence, I conclude that Mr. Arguello’s actions have caused Mr. McCaffery to suffer debilitating and disabling injuries which have had significant life-changing effects and that, as a result, he should be compensated with a substantial award of non-pecuniary damages…

[79]         Taking all these considerations into account, I have concluded that an appropriate award for Mr. McCaffery’s pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life is $200,000.

The Court went on to note that punitive damages were warranted even though the Defendant was criminally convicted.  In assessing punitive damages at $30,000 the court provided the following reasons:

[122]     At para. 33 of Thomson v. Friedmann, 2008 BCSC 703, aff’d 2010 BCCA 277, referring to Whiten v. Pilot Insurance Co., 2002 SCC 18, Justice Gerow reviewed the factors a court should consider when determining whether to award, and the quantum of, punitive damages. In addition to the overall purpose of such damages, in relevant part, the factors she outlined included that:

a)    punitive damages should be assessed in an amount reasonably proportionate to such factors as the harm caused, the degree of the misconduct, the relative vulnerability of the plaintiff, and any advantage or profit gained by the defendant;

b)    punitive damages should take into account any other fines or penalties suffered by the defendant for the misconduct in question;

c)     punitive damages should generally only be awarded where the misconduct would otherwise be unpunished or where other penalties are or are likely to be inadequate to achieve the objectives of retribution, deterrence, and denunciation;

d)    the purpose of punitive damages is to give the defendant her or his “just desert”, deter the defendant, and others, from similar misconduct, and to mark the community’s collective condemnation about what has happened. Punitive damages are only awarded when compensatory damages are insufficient to accomplish these objectives;

e)    punitive damages are awarded in an amount that is no greater than necessary to accomplish their purposes and are generally moderated; and

f)      the court should assess whether the conduct of a defendant should be punished over and above the requirement to pay non-pecuniary, pecuniary, and aggravated damages.

[123]     In this case, Mr. Arguello was prosecuted and convicted of assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm. He was sentenced to a six-month conditional sentence, during which for three months he was subject to a curfew, and one year of probation. At the sentencing hearing, Mr. Arguello’s criminal counsel submitted to Judge Moss that the fact that Mr. Arguello was facing a civil lawsuit for damages should be a factor in favour of a conditional sentence. In his sentencing reasons, Judge Moss considered the fact of the civil lawsuit.

[124]     The compensatory damages I have awarded are significant, but they compensate Mr. McCaffery for his actual losses and damages. In the circumstances of this case, I am satisfied that an award of punitive damages is also necessary to make it clear to the public that Mr. Arguello’s conduct departed so markedly from the ordinary standards of decent behaviour as to be worthy of further punishment.

[125]     Mr. Arguello’s decision to follow Mr. McCaffery’s vehicle for five kilometres up the Upper Levels Highway, cut aggressively in front of it, slam on his brakes and cause a collision, and then to exit his vehicle with a baseball bat with which he repeatedly hit Mr. McCaffery, cannot be countenanced in civil society where hundreds of thousands of drivers use our roads and encounter driving manoeuvres which upset or anger them. Road rage incidents are increasingly common in our busy lives and on our busy roads as drivers’ jockey for position. They cannot be tolerated.

[126]     I accept that Mr. Arguello expressed regret for the injuries he caused by his behaviour, but at the same time, he asked for consideration for the legal fees he expended to defend himself criminally and the impact of the Incident on his family. As the person determined to be fully responsible for the Incident, both criminally and civilly, his submissions indicated to me that he had not entirely understood the community’s condemnation of his behaviour.

[127]     Therefore, in addition to the compensatory damages I have ordered, I award Mr. McCaffery the sum of $30,000 in punitive damages.


$217,500 in Damages Ordered Following Suckerpunch Assault

March 8th, 2017

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, ordering the payment of $217,500 in total damages after the Plaintiff was injured in an assault/battery.

In today’s case (Rycroft v. Rego) the Plaintiff alleged he was injured in an altercation with the Defendant.  Although the Court heard differing versions of events the Court concluded the Defendant through an “unexpected” punch to the Plaintiff which began a brief physical scuffle.

In finding the Defendant culpable for the assault and the injuries that arose Mr. Justice Williams made the following findings of fact:

[30]         Based on my examination of all of the evidence, my conclusions with respect to what occurred are as follows.

[31]         In order to investigate the reported damage caused to the bike park, shortly after returning home, the plaintiff entered the yard behind his residence. Immediately before the altercation, while Mr. Rycroft was walking at a moderate pace in the general direction of his own home, Mr. Rego, walking quite briskly, approached him.

[32]         I accept that the plaintiff said words to the effect of “you must be the dad; I do not want kids playing there anymore.”

[33]         I find that, at that point, the defendant struck the side of the plaintiff’s head. The version of events which most sensibly and logically explains the resulting bruise is that, when he was struck, Mr. Rycroft had his head turned to the right. The punch was of significant force and unexpected.

[34]         As a consequence of the blow, the plaintiff went down in a forward direction, ending up on his knees. He had his hands on the ground. The defendant immediately applied some type of headlock to Mr. Rycroft from behind.

[35]         The two men struggled, with Mr. Rego behind and above Mr. Rycroft. No significant blows were landed.

[36]         The physical engagement ended fairly quickly. The defendant let go of the plaintiff and moved away, and the plaintiff got to his feet.

[37]         The defendant said something to the effect of “do you want round two?” or “do you want some more?” The plaintiff responded in the affirmative, I expect probably more reflexively than seriously, but did nothing physically to further engage with the defendant. Instead, the plaintiff reached into his pocket, took out his phone, and called 911.

[38]         At that point, the defendant and his wife left and went home.

[39]         In the course of the altercation, the plaintiff sustained an injury to his left temple area, an injury which is depicted in the photo marked Exhibit 6. I find that bruise was caused by a blow from the defendant.

[40]         It is also reasonable to conclude that Mr. Rycroft sustained minor injuries to his arm, his elbow area, and his hand, likely from going to the ground.

[41]         Finally, I accept that the plaintiff incurred some injury to his knees, also resulting from going to the ground.


Defendant Ordered to Pay $7,500 After “Body-Checking” Plaintiff During Debt Collection

June 23rd, 2016

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, ordering a Defendant to pay a Plaintiff $5,000 in non-pecuniary damages and a further $2,500 in punitive damages following an assault during a debt collection.

In today’s case (Ross v. Dhillon) the Plaintiff attended the Defendant’s business to collect an outstanding business account with respect to some industrial equipment purchased by the Defendant.  The Defendant made partial payment and the Plaintiff,  unsatisfied with this, removed a part from the equipment.  As he attempted to leave the Defendant “body‑checked him into the door frame and held him against it for several seconds.”.

The Court found this incident caused a minor aggravation of pre-existing injuries the Plaintiff suffered in a collision.  In assessing damages at $7,500 Mr. Justice Smith provided the following reasons:

[20]         I therefore find that the plaintiff experienced a minor and short‑lived aggravation of his neck and back symptoms, accompanied by an equally minor and short‑lived condition that produced some numbness in his hand…

[23]         Considering the minor nature of the plaintiff’s injuries, including the brief aggravation of his previous symptoms and including a component for aggravated damages, I award the plaintiff non‑pecuniary damages of $5,000.

[24]         I also find this to be an appropriate case for punitive damages. The defendant’s conduct was willful, reckless and dangerous. While his conduct was at the low end of any scale that would measure violent conduct, no amount of violence was an acceptable response to this dispute about a relatively small debt.

[25]         In Van Hartevelt v. Grewal, 2012 BCSC 658, the court awarded $10,000 in punitive damages to a plaintiff who was beaten about the head and kicked in the ribs. The violence in this case was much less severe, and I award punitive damages of $2,500.


Nightclub and Bouncers Ordered To Pay $3,084,200 Following Assault on Patron

October 1st, 2014

Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, highlighting a $3 million jury verdict following a nightclub assault.

In today’s case (Maras v. Seemore Entertainment Ltd.) the Plaintiff was assaulted outside of a nightclub in Vancouver, BC and sustained a traumatic brain injury.  Both the owner of the club and 3 bouncers were found liable and ordered to pay the damages.  Prior to trial the Plaintiff offered to settle for $1.425 million an offer which was countered with $20,000 by the Defendants.   The Court ordered that the Defendant pay increased costs for failing to accept the Plaintiff’s reasonable pre-trial offer.  In highlighting the jury’s decision the Court provided the following reasons:

[1]             This action arose from an assault upon the plaintiff that occurred on April 4, 2009 outside the Au Bar nightclub, located on Seymour Street in Vancouver.

[2]             The plaintiff sustained serious injuries including a complicated mild traumatic brain injury combined with orthopedic and psychiatric injuries.

[3]             The plaintiff was 20 years old at the time of the assault and 25 years old when the action proceeded to trial before a jury for nine weeks commencing April 7, 2014.

[4]             Both liability and the quantum of damages were in issue at trial and vigorously contested by the parties.

[5]             On June 9, 2014, the jury delivered its verdict. Liability was found against the corporate defendant owner of the nightclub and three of the security personnel or “bouncers”. The action against one of the security staff defendants, Mr. Yip, and the nightclub’s manager, Mr. Childs, was dismissed. The plaintiff was found not to be contributorily negligent.

[6]             The jury assessed damages as follows:

General damages $   250,000
Loss of income and loss of earning capacity to trial $   175,000
Future loss of earning capacity $1,832,000
Cost of future care $   800,000
Special damages $     27,200
Total $3,084,200

 


Punitive Damages Ordered Against Pub After Bouncer’s “Reprehensible” Beating of Patron

December 5th, 2013

Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, awarding damages against a bouncer and the pub that employed him following a beating of an unruly patron.

In this week’s case (Reimer v. Rooster’s Country Cabaret Ltd.) the Plaintiff was physically removed from the Defendant pub after he tried to enter while concealing a beer in his cargo shorts.  Moments later he was “seriously beaten” by the Defendant bouncer and other individuals.   The Plaintiff suffered a variety of injuries which fortunately recovered largely without incident.  Although the Defendant bouncer was charged criminally he was acquitted at the related criminal trial.

Mr. Justice Jenkins found the bouncer liable for the damages and further found the pub vicariously liable for the assault.  In ordering the defendant’s jointly and severally liable to pay punitive damages the Court provided the following reasons:

[97]         The conduct of Mr. Turnau and Mr. Barber in particular, and to a slightly lesser extent the other security staff who either participated in the beating or stood idly by while the beating continued, was unnecessary, totally unacceptable, “high-handed, malicious, arbitrary and reprehensible” to a major degree. Further, compensatory damages in this case are inadequate to compensate Mr. Reimer. They would not provide the defendants with, as Gerow J. put it, their “just deserts”, nor would they serve the objectives of “retribution, deterrence and denunciation” of the defendants’ actions.

[98]         The assault in the parking lot was unprovoked and the entire episode should have ended with Mr. Reimer and Mr. Murchie walking out through the parking lot. It is also particularly objectionable that the beating was carried out in front of several of the patrons of Rooster’s who had proceeded outside and into the parking lot, where, as completely independent witnesses, they were exposed to incredible brutality.

[99]         Considering all of the authorities referred to me on the issue of quantum, I award a sum of $20,000 as punitive damages.

[100]     The award of punitive damages is made against both Mr. Turnau and Rooster’s, as I have found the latter directly liable in addition to being vicariously liable.


$35,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessmemnt for Broken Wrist Caused by Assault

September 24th, 2013

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Smithers Registry, assessing damages for injuries sustained in an assault.

In last week’s case (Abbott v. Glaim) the Plaintiff and Defendant were together at a house party when they became involved in a brief verbal confrontation.  Although the Court was presented with competing versions of what actually transpired the Court ultimately accepted that following the verbal exchange the Defendant “took both hands and pushed (the Plaintiff) backwards off the deck to the concrete pad below”.

The Plaintiff suffered various injuries including a fractured wrist.  In assessing non-pecuniary damages at $35,000 Mr. Justice Skolrood provided the following reasons:

[133]     It will be apparent from the above that I accept Joyce’s evidence that she was pushed down the stairs by Lucy…

[137]     The most significant injury suffered by Joyce was to her left wrist. An initial x-ray of the wrist, taken on March 26, 2006, did not reveal a fracture but a subsequent x-ray done on April 5, 2006 showed an undisplaced fracture of the distal radius in her left wrist. A cast was applied which she wore until May 19, 2006.

[138]     Joyce underwent physiotherapy treatments for her wrist beginning in early April 2006. She attended 22 physiotherapy sessions over the course of approximately one year. Joyce testified that her wrist continued to cause her pain and discomfort for a considerable period of time, particularly given that her work as a dental hygienist requires her to use both hands and wrists extensively. Joyce described her left hand as the “mirror hand” in that, because she is right handed, the left hand does things like holding the mirror and pulling the patient’s cheek back while the right hand uses the dental instruments.

[139]     As a result of her wrist injury, Joyce was away from work until June 2006. She initially tried to return to work on a full time basis but quickly scaled back from eight to six hours a day because of ongoing difficulties. It was not until August of 2007 that she was able to return to working an eight hour shift.

[140]     In addition to her wrist injury, Joyce testified that she began to experience regular headaches following the incident. Sometime in 2008, she attended a work seminar in Vancouver on temporomandibular joint (“TMJ”) issues which caused her to consider whether her headaches were the result of a TMJ disorder. She spoke to both her doctor and her dentist about this and she was sent for testing.

[141]     On February 11, 2009, she underwent a CT scan of her head which revealed “focal degenerative activity in the left mandibular condyle.”  The imaging report further notes: “This is an unusual location and raises the possibility that this could be a result of previous trauma.”

[142]     Joyce was examined by a dentist, Dr. Kinkela, on May 5 and June 16, 2009 and he found her symptoms to be consistent with trauma to her TM joints, “particularly an acceleration/deceleration type of an event that would illicit some soft tissue strain on the TMJ supporting structures and lead to a subsequent inflammatory response.”

[143]     However, Dr. Kinkela also noted that he did not have any of Joyce’s records pre-dating the incident so he could not conclusively state the cause of Joyce’s symptoms.

[144]     Joyce was prescribed both a night and a day guard to wear in her mouth which are intended to relieve pressure on the TMJ. Joyce testified that she wears the guards and that they have been useful in reducing the frequency of her headaches.

[145]     One other consequence of the incident according to Joyce has been an increased sense of anxiety and periodic panic attacks. Her doctor prescribed her an antidepressant that she continues to take as well as Ativan to deal with the panic attacks. Joyce testified that she no longer takes the Ativan as the frequency of her panic attacks has diminished.

[146]     Joyce testified to the significant emotional upset and embarrassment she experienced as a result of the incident, the effects of which continued to be felt at the time of trial. She said that she strives to be a role model for her 17 year old daughter, and in the community generally, and that it was traumatizing to be involved in an incident of this nature…

[156]     Taking account of all of the evidence and considering the factors articulated by the Court of Appeal in Stapley I award Joyce $35,000 under this head.

 


Aggravated Assault Causing Orbital Fracture Leads to $50,000 Non-Pecuniary Assessment

July 24th, 2013

In an expensive lesson that problems should not be solved with violence, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Nelson Registry, assessing damages for a facial fracture caused by an assault.

In this week’s case (Plishka-Humphreys v. Bolen) the Plaintiff was walking with friends by a highway when “unbeknownst to him his friend Arnie van der Holt took a slingshot and ball bearing and shot it at a vehicle which was owned and driven by the defendant Bolen.“.  The Defendant chased the Plaintiff and his friend into the woods and “hit him in the face with considerable force. He fell down. He repeatedly was struck in the head and face. He was in and out of consciousness and was in shock.”

The Plaintiff suffered an orbital fracture and ultimately required surgery.  He was left with permanent issues including occasional double vision. In addition to being criminally convicted of aggravated assault, the Defendant was found civilly liable and ordered to pay damages.  In assessing non-pecuniary loss at $50,000 Mr. Justice Cole provided the following reasons:

[20]         I am satisfied that the plaintiff received permanent injury to his eye because of his double vision. He is also at risk of developing glycoma and he suffers from anxiety and thoughts of suicide. He is now more vulnerable to further exacerbation of his post-traumatic stress disorder. He has lost a tooth in what was a traumatic violent assault.

[21]         The range of damages, according to the plaintiff, is (figure is adjusted for inflation) between $24,000 in Springett v. Shanklin, 2001 BCSC 853 and $53,700 in Minet v. Kossler, 2007 YKSC 30.

[22]         Considering and weighing all the evidence, the trauma that the plaintiff experienced, the permanent damage to his eye which causes him to suffer on occasion from double vision and is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”) and is at an increased risk of anxiety and depresic disorder, I am satisfied that an appropriate award including aggravated damages is the sum of $50,000.


Don't Get in a Fistfight at your Son's Baseball Game

March 21st, 2013

In case there aren’t enough reasons to avoid a fistfight at your kid’s sporting events, here’s one more; being on the wrong end of a subsequent lawsuit in the BC Supreme Court will expose you to loser pays costs consequences.

The BC Supreme Court, New Westminster Registry, released reasons for judgement today with such a result.  In today’s case (Charland v. Cloverdale Minor Baseball Association and Wheeler) the Plaintiff’s son was playing in a Pee Wee baseball game.  The Defendant’s son was the scheduled umpire who arrived late.  He was told to go home the by Plaintiff.  He went home upset and his father came to the baseball game to discuss what happened with the Plaintiff.  After the two fathers exchanged some colourful words the Defendant “walked away 8 to 10 feet” when the Plaintiff “stood up from his chair and moved forward quickly” with “the intention to fight“.  The Defendant hit the Plaintiff in the head and then grappled for a while after that.  The Plaintiff was injured in the incident and sued for damages.

Madam Justice Watchuk dismissed the lawsuit finding it was a consensual fight.  The Court provided the following reasons:

[88]         Consent is a defence to the torts of assault and battery.  If Mr. Wheeler alleges and proves that the parties agreed to the physical contact in question, then Mr. Charland cannot complain of injuries suffered.  The onus of establishing consent is on Mr. Wheeler:

Although the fact that the plaintiff consented to the defendant’s conduct effectively negates the argument that a wrong has been committed, consent is treated as a defence which must be established by the defendant. 

Lewis n. Klar, Q.C., Tort Law, 5th ed. (Toronto: Thomson Reuters, 2012) at 128.

[89]         If a fight is proven to be mutual or consensual, the parties cannot complain of injuries suffered in the course of the fight:

A related matter concern consent to violent acts in other contexts, for example, in the case of “mutual fights”.  The case law supports the proposition that those who engage in fights, even though these activities may be criminal, cannot complain of injuries suffered in the course of the fight, unless the force which is used by one of the combatants is excessive or unnecessary.  The dismissal of the plaintiff’s actions in these cases may be grounded either on the basis of the defence of consent or illegality.

Lewis n. Klar, Q.C., Tort Law, 5th ed. (Toronto: Thomson Reuters, 2012) at 134….

[97]         The conversation then escalated.  Mr. Charland says that Mr. Wheeler’s tone suddenly changed.  I find that the reason for that sudden change in Mr. Wheeler’s tone was Mr. Charland’s telling him to “fuck off”.  After Mr. Charland escalated the conversation to a confrontation, Mr. Wheeler replied with words to the effect of “fat shit”.  There was some loud conversation between the two fathers. 

[98]         Mr. Wheeler then walked away to process Mr. Charland’s response.  He still wanted to resolve the situation and assist his son Cam.  As Mr. Wheeler walked away, Mr. Charland said, “I’ll get you later”, as he told Cst. Lee.  The words he told the court he said, “I’ll do you later”, do not equate, I find, with “I will meet you later”.  In making that statement, Mr. Charland had formed the intention to fight and had chosen to accept what he mistakenly understood to be an invitation to fight from Mr. Wheeler. 

[99]         Mr. Wheeler had walked away 8 to 10 feet to the grassy area.  He walked back part of that distance to Mr. Charland.  Mr. Charland stood up from his chair and moved forward quickly towards Mr. Wheeler.  When Mr. Wheeler saw him coming, he had a real fear of being injured or, as he put it, “run over”.  Mr. Wheeler then hit Mr. Charland once in the head.  The moments of contact between the two fathers included some mutual grabbing which Mr. Geppert described part of, Ms. Brozer referred to as a “kafuffle” and Ms. Korrins described as grappling.  In the course of that interaction, Mr. Charland slipped and fell on the grass.  Mr. Wheeler then walked away after the intervention of some of the other witnesses and observers. 

[100]     Mr. Wheeler did not kick Mr. Charland.  There is no independent evidence of a kick.  If Mr. Charland was injured in his kidney during the altercation at the park, I conclude that the injury occurred from his fall on the grass.  Similarly, Mr. Wheeler’s injury to his eye which resulted in a black eye was a result of the mutual grappling and physical interaction rather than a punch by Mr. Charland directly to Mr. Wheeler. 

[101]     I find that when Mr. Charland got up out of his chair and moved quickly towards Mr. Wheeler who was then 8 to 10 feet away on the grass Mr. Charland had an intention to fight.  Mr. Wheeler reacted by engaging in the fight after walking back toward an angry man.  Mr. Charland’s action in standing up and moving toward Mr. Wheeler, as it created fear, was an assault.  Mr. Wheeler responded with a punch which was a battery.  I conclude that the proper characterisation of the altercation between the two fathers is that it was consensual. 

The Court went on to order that the Defendant pay the Plaintiff’s costs providing an expensive lesson to the Plaintiff for this incident.


Worker Ordered To Pay $561,000 in Damages for Assaulting Former Supervisor

July 16th, 2012

In a compelling illustration of the potential civil consequences following criminal behaviour, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, assessing damages for a brain injury following an assault at over $561,000.

In the recent case (Weber v. DeBrouwer) the Plaintiff worked as a supervisor of the Defendant at the Village of Harrison Hot Springs.   The Plaintiff “suspended the defendant several times” and over the course of their overlapping employment “relations between the two worsened“.   In the summer of 2007 the defendant approached the Plaintiff as the Plaintiff was out for a walk and “brutally assaulted” him.

The assault led to various physical injuries including a mild traumatic brain injury and further led to ongoing psychological difficulties.  Global damages of over $561,000 were assessed with non-pecuniary damages assessed at $150,000.  In arriving at this figure Mr. Justice Greyell provided the following reasons:

[72] In this case, Mr. Weber was 49 years old at the time he was assaulted. The assault caused him significant injury and pain and suffering. He suffered facial injuries, including several fractures, dental injuries, bruising, rib and chest injuries, knee and hand injuries, soft tissue injuries to his back and neck, and a mild traumatic brain injury with ongoing cognitive and speech difficulties which took some time to resolve. Mr. Weber remains affected by depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder. He avoids confrontational situations…

[75] In the present case, Mr. Weber is now 54 years old. A number of his injuries, including his headaches, bruising and soft tissue injuries cleared up after several months. For a considerable time after the assault he was bothered with nightmares and had difficulty sleeping. He is left with a number of problems. He has difficulty with the alignment of his jaw; he still is clumsy and, while greatly improved, he has difficulty finding and pronouncing some words. Mr. Weber remains anxious and fearful of the defendant and avoids going places where the defendant might be. He avoids situations with guests at the motel where any type of conflict could arise, deferring to his wife to handle such matters. Dr. Smith says he will remain permanently impaired by symptoms of anxiety.

[76] Mr. Weber’s injuries and the residual effects of those injuries are significant, however, in my view, each of the cases cited by counsel for Mr. Weber involve circumstances where the injuries and residual effects to the plaintiffs were more significant. After a consideration of the factors outlined above in Stapley, I conclude $150,000 is an appropriate and fair amount to award for non-pecuniary damages.


Dark Alley Assault Occupier's Liability Lawsuit Dismissed

May 12th, 2011

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Kelowna Registry, dealing with an interesting issue: Can a commercial occupier be sued for an intentional assault for having inadequate lighting in their alleyway.

In last week’s case (Vaughn v. Kelowna Speedometer Ltd.) the Plaintiff was a patron at the Blue Gator Bar and Grill in Kelowna, BC.  After several hours he left the pub.  As he was walking in the pub’s back alley he was “assaulted from behind and seriously injured“.  His assailant was unknown.  The Plaintiff sued the Pub alleging that the alley had poor lighting and this contributed to the assault.  Mr. Justice Shabbits dismissed the lawsuit finding that even if the lighting was inadequate for the conditions it did not cause the assault using the “but for” test.  In dismissing the claim the Court provided the following reasons:

[23] In my opinion, the plaintiff has not shown that but for proper lighting he would not have been injured. I agree with the submission that additional lighting may have reduced the risk of an assault, but lack of lighting did not cause the assault. The plaintiff could have been assaulted in daylight hours, or assaulted farther down the alley. It is speculation to infer that lighting was a factor in the assault occurring. Even assuming that the lighting at the rear of the Blue Gator was inadequate, the evidence is not capable of proving, on a balance of probabilities, that Mr. Vaughn would not have been injured had proper lighting been in place.

[24] Mr. Vaughn bears the burden of showing that “but for” the negligent act or omission, the injury would not have occurred. There is no evidence on which I would find that but for adequate lighting, the injury would not have occurred. I am of the opinion that it has not been shown, on a balance of probabilities, that a lack of lighting caused Mr. Vaughn’s loss.