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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 ‘excessive use of force’

Saanich Police Officer Found To Use Excessive Force During Arrest

December 31st, 2018

Reasons for judgement were published this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, assessing $120,000 in non-pecuniary damages for a plaintiff who sustained a shoulder injury while being arrested by the Saanich police.  The Court found there was negligence however the claim was ultimately dismissed as the Plaintiff failed to provide the needed statutory notice under the Local Government Act.

In the recent case (Lapshinoff v. Wray) the Plaintiff was removed from his vehicle while being investigated for erratic driving.  The Defendant forcefully took the plaintiff to the pavement which resulted in a complex shoulder injury requiring two surgeries along with “an irreparable rotator cuff tear that is permanently disabling“.

The Court found that while the arrest was lawful the police used excessive force.  In reaching this conclusion and assessing non-pecuniary damages at $120,000 Mr. Justice Meiklem provided the following reasons:

[128]              I accept Mr. Lapshinoff’s evidence that his initial comment about his truck being hit and asking what that was about was not belligerent or loud. He had no concern about damage to his very experienced dilapidated vehicle, but that exchange and Mr. Lapshinoff’s immediate request for ID probably contributed to an antagonistic atmosphere. Constable Wray did not provide ID, and demanded Mr. Lapshinoff get out of the vehicle. Mr. Lapshinoff unlatched his seat belt but did not get out promptly. Constable Wray repeated the demand more emphatically with a profanity. Lapshinoff was in the process of complying, perhaps somewhat reluctantly, with his left foot partially out the door which he opened partly, at the same time repeating that he would still like to see ID, when Constable Wray reached over and yanked him out forcefully in the manner previously described.

[129]              The fact that Constable Wray was able to pull the 200-pound Mr. Lapshinoff out of the truck in one pull, even though he said that he did so as hard as he was able, is consistent with Mr. Lapshinoff being turned and beginning to get out on his own. If both his feet were still in the vehicle and he was facing forward when he was yanked out, it is difficult to see how he could have emerged even partially on his feet.

[130]              In my view, this very forceful removal was completely unnecessary and is only explainable as Constable Wray acting out of a loss of self control and anger, rather than necessity. He acknowledged that he did not consider any less violent means of dealing with the situation he perceived.

[131]              It is clear that he was either blind to the fact that Mr. Lapshinoff was starting to comply with his demand to get out, or that he simply expected a faster response and was making that point with physical aggression.

[132]              I note that during cross-examination Constable Wray volunteered an explanation as to how the plaintiff could have reacted differently and how it is in the interests of people to listen, even if they disagree with the reasonable grounds. He suggested that was “safest for everyone”. He neglected to practice that advice himself in dealing with Mr. Lapshinoff. He perceived Mr. Lapshinoff as belligerently wanting answers to the questions he was asking. If he was in fact providing the answers he claims he was providing and perceived that Mr. Lapshinoff was not hearing or listening him, as he testified, there were certainly safer and more reasonable measures that he could have employed to gain his attention and compliance other than yanking him out of the truck within seconds of arriving and engaging him in a tussle for a few seconds before tripping him and forcefully sending him to the ground.

[133]              The plaintiff’s right shoulder or arm struck the truck door as he was yanked out, causing it to fly open. This further demonstrates a degree of aggressiveness and lack of foresight and care for the safety of the plaintiff, which was unnecessary and disproportionate to the exigencies of the arrest. Although it is unknown whether that impact actually contributed to the plaintiff’s shoulder and arm injuries, there certainly was a foreseeable risk of injury in yanking the plaintiff through a partly open truck door.

[134]              There was also a foreseeable and unnecessary risk of injury with a 6’ 3”, 240 lb officer taking a person to the ground with a leg sweep trip while holding his upper body and falling with him.

[148]              In light of the consensus between the parties on the appropriate general damage award, which I find to be appropriate, no detailed analysis is required on that issue. I would award general damages in the sum of $120,000 against the defendant Saanich. I would not award punitive damages.


Saanich Police Officer Found "Grossly Negligent" For Fatally Shooting Disturbed Man

April 15th, 2011

(UPDATE January 10, 2013In reasons for judgement released today the BC Court of Appeal ordered a new trial in the below discussed case finding that the trial judge’s reasons did not adequatly address the important evidence presented at trial)

Important reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, addressing lawsuits for damages against police officers when excessive force is used in the line of duty.

This week’s case (Camaso v. Egan) has been covered in the conventional press and I don’t intend to repeat all the well publicized details.  From a legal perspective, however, this case is useful for anyone interested in the law of police officer liability in British Columbia.

In this week’s case the Saanich Police Department were called to deal with a disturbed man.   Constable Dukeshire was one of the officers who responded to this call.  Shortly after encountering the disturbed individual Constable Dukeshire shot him several times resulting in his death.  He was found negligent making the City of Saanich liable for his actions under the principles of vicarious liability.  Damages of almost $350,000 were awarded to the disturbed man’s survivors under the BC Family Compensation Act.

Mr. Justice Burnyeat of the BC Supreme Court went further and found the officer grossly negligent for the death.  Paragraphs 269-308 are worth reviewing in full for anyone interested in this area of law.  Some of the highlights of Mr. Justice Burnyeat’s reasons were as follows:

[272]It is not in dispute that Constable Dukeshire shot Mr. Camaso.  Having established that, the onus shifts to Constable Dukeshire to establish that the shooting was justified.  In Prior v. McNab (1976), 16 O.R. (2d) 380 (Ont. H.C.), Reid J. stated in this regard:

… It is enough to allege and prove an assault.  Plaintiff need not prove that the force used was excessive.  He need prove only that it was used upon him.  The onus of proving that the force was not excessive would lie on the policeman.  This is clear from the decisions of our Court of Appeal.

The onus on a plea of justification in the use of force lies on him who asserts it: Miska v. Sivec, [1959] O.R. 144, 18 D.L.R. (2d) 363.  This applies to one who sets up the defence of self-defence (as in Miska) or on one who relies on a statutory duty:  O’Tierney v. Concord Tavern Ltd., supra, per Roach, J.A., who said, at p. 534:

It was implicit in a plea of justification even based on a statutory duty that the degree of force used was not excessive and the party making that plea must prove it.

That onus would lie on the police if sued. (at p. 385)…

[282]The “Use of Force Continuum” that is taught to all officers and which is part of the Policy of the Saanich Police Department provides for a continuum from “presence” to “communication” to “open hand control” to “taser” to “capsaicinoid aerosols” (pepper spray) to “empty hand impact techniques” to “impact weapons” to “lateral neck restraint” to “firearms”.

[283]After Mr. Camaso came out from behind his vehicle the first time, Constable Dukeshire moved directly to “firearms” without going through any of the earlier stages of the continuum.  After Constable Dukeshire saw that Mr. Camaso was not holding a weapon which could cause him harm from afar, Constable Dukeshire failed to deescalate the situation in order to establish “presence” and in order to establish “communication”.  This failure to do so breached the duty of care which Constable Dukeshire owed to Mr. Camaso.

[284]Rather than calling for backup, Constable Dukeshire pursued Mr. Camaso on his own.  Saanich Police Department Policy required Constable Dukeshire to engage a supervisor.  He failed to do so.  Saanich Police Department Policy required Constable Dukeshire to take charge and coordinate the efforts of the other two Constables.  He did not do so.  Rather than pursuing Mr. Camaso as the leader of a team or as part of a team, Constable Dukeshire pursued Mr. Camaso without the knowledge of the location of Constables McNeil and Murphy, and without attempting to coordinate their activities with his own.  No call was made by Constable Dukeshire for a supervisor to coordinate activities.  No attempt was made by Constable Dukeshire to allow Constables McNeil and Murphy to catch up to him in order that they could assist him in apprehending Mr. Camaso under the Mental Health Act….

[289]It was not reasonable for Constable Dukeshire to continue to aim his gun at Mr. Camaso when Mr. Camaso appeared to be complying by going down onto the ground as was requested by Constable Dukeshire.  His service revolver should have been holstered….

[295]Even with one or two potential weapons in Mr. Camaso’s hands, Constable Dukeshire who weighed almost one hundred pounds more and stood almost a foot taller than Mr. Camaso could not have had a reasonable belief that it was necessary to shoot Mr. Camaso for his own preservation.  It was always apparent to Constable Dukeshire that Mr. Camaso did not have a gun in his hands. …

[299]Putting myself in the position of Constable Dukeshire or putting a reasonable officer in the position of Constable Dukeshire, it is not reasonable to conclude that it is part of the responsibility of Constable Dukeshire to shoot Mr. Camaso three times and it is not possible on reasonable grounds to conclude that the force he used was necessary for the purpose of protecting himself and others from imminent or grievous bodily harm.  Putting myself in the position of Constable Dukeshire or putting even an inexperienced officer in the position of Constable Dukeshire, it is not possible on reasonable grounds to conclude that the force that was used was necessary.  Constable Dukeshire did not act on reasonable grounds when he shot Mr. Camaso.

[300]I find that Constable Dukeshire breached the duty of care owed to Mr. Camaso when he did not use the least amount of force necessary to carry out his duties, when he failed to remain a safe distance away from Mr. Camaso, when he failed to properly assess the situation before approaching Mr. Camaso, when he failed to plan an appropriate method to deal with the situation, when he advanced on Mr. Camaso thereby failing to deescalate the situation once it appeared that Mr. Camaso was beginning to comply with his commands, and when he failed to wait for backup support.  Constable Dukeshire breached his duty owed to Mr. Camaso to use only so much force as was reasonably necessary to carry out his legal duties.

[301]In the circumstances, I find Constable Dukeshire liable in negligence because I find that there was duty of care owed to Mr. Camaso, that there was a breach of that duty of care, and that the breach of the duty of care caused the death of Mr. Camaso.

[302]At the same time, Constable Dukeshire has failed to establish that the shooting was justified and that the force that he used was not excessive.  In fact, the Plaintiffs have shown on the balance of probabilities that the force that was used was excessive.  I find that Constable Dukeshire cannot rely on s. 25 of the Criminal Code of Canada or the provisions of ss. 16 and 28 of theMental Health Act.  His use of force was not justified.  I cannot find that Constable Dukeshire believed on reasonable grounds that it was necessary for his self-preservation to use the force that he did.  I have reached the conclusion that Constable Dukeshire is liable in damages as a result of his failure to act in good faith and with reasonable care…

307]In reviewing all of the circumstances of this case, I conclude that Constable Dukeshire was grossly negligent.  When the pursuit of Mr. Camaso commenced, Constable Dukeshire was not involved in a dangerous activity.  However, as soon as Constable Dukeshire removed his service revolver from its holster and aimed it at Mr. Camaso, he was involved in an activity where it is plain that the magnitude of the risks involved were such that more than ordinary care had to be taken.  If more than ordinary care was not taken, a misstep or a mishap was likely to occur such that loss of life or serious injury would be almost inevitable.  More than ordinary care was not taken.  The loss of the life of Mr. Camaso resulted.  I also find Saanich vicariously liable for the damages caused by Constable Dukeshire.