Criminal Conviction Strips Defendant of Civil Liability Denial
Reasons for judgment were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, confirming that it is an abuse of process to deny liability in a civil lawsuit for damages following a criminal conviction related to the same incident.
In today’s case (McCaffery v. Arguello) the parties were involved in a road rage incidence during which the Defendant “proceeded to intervene in the fight between Mr. McCaffery and Mr. Segundo by repeatedly striking Mr. Mccaffery with the baseball bat, causing him serious but non-life-threatening injuries to his head and wrist.”
The Defendant was criminally convicted of assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm. The Plaintiff sued for damages and the Defendant denied liability. In summarily finding the Defendant civilly liable Mr. Justice Sewell provided the following reasons:
 Mr. Arguello’s counsel submits that as provocation may affect the quantum of damages It will still be necessary to hear viva voce evidence about the circumstances leading up to the assault at the assessment. That may be so. But the evidence will have no bearing on liability. I am also of the view that evidence restricted to the limited issue of provocation will not materially lengthen or complicate the assessment process.
 I am also satisfied that I should grant judgment on liability notwithstanding the fact that this amounts to a severance of the issues of liability and assessment. Rule 9-7(2) permits a party to apply for judgment on an issue or generally. In my view this is an appropriate case to dispose of liability before assessing damages. Mr. Arguello clearly has no defence on the issue of liability. There is no reason to require him to re-litigate that issue.
 Finally, I conclude that there is no merit in the argument that judgment cannot be granted in the absence of the defendant Mr. Segundo. I was not referred to any authority for the proposition that the plaintiff is not permitted to pursue judgment against one defendant in an assault case. If Mr. Arguello wishes to pursue a claim against Mr. Segundo for contribution, he is at liberty to do so. However I see no reason why that possibility should delay the plaintiff’s claim against him.
 Accordingly I find that the plaintiff is entitled to judgment finding the defendant liable for his injuries, with damages to be assessed.