Criminal Guilty Plea Strips Defendant of Civil Liability Denial


Typically it is an abuse of process for an individual to plead guilty to criminal charges and to then deny liability in a subsequent civil lawsuit arising from the same incident.  The BC Supreme Court Rules allow judges to strike pleadings denying previous admissions as an ‘abuse of process‘.  Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Nelson Registry, demonstrating such a result.
In this week’s case (Plishka-Humphries (Guardian ad litem of) v. Bolen) the Plaintiff was assaulted and battered by the Defendant Bolen.  The Defendant plead guilty to aggravated assault as a result of the incident.  In a subsequent civil lawsuit the Defendant denied liability.  The Plaintiff brought an application for summary judgement which was granted.  In finding the Defendant civilly liable for the incident Mr. Justice McEwan provided the following reasons:
[11] The present case differs from Franco in that the defendant is not asserting a defence that parallels the position he took before the criminal court. In such circumstances a defendant’s position at least has the virtue of consistency. Here, the defendant seeks to give an exculpatory version of facts he has previously admitted…

[13] Here, however, at the sentencing proceeding, the defendant admitted the facts that the plaintiff alleges in the civil case. He now wishes to contradict those admissions. This is not a case of a careless plea, or a plea to a vague and uncertain set of facts.  Nor is it a case where there was a lack of incentive to dispute a minor charge. It is also not a case of new evidence. There was no hint or suggestion of a threat from the plaintiff, at the sentencing proceeding, let alone facts that could be characterized as a form of self-defence. There was, rather, a submission that he was taking responsibility and acknowledging the harm he had done. In the context of that hearing it appears that this was offered as a kind of mitigation.

[14] The transcript also contradicts the defendant’s suggestion that he pled guilty on his lawyer’s advice and not because he considered himself guilty. He stood in court while his lawyer represented variously that he was “deeply remorseful”, “wants to plead guilty”, “wants to announce his guilt” … “recognizes this,” that “[h]is reaction was wrong” or that he wanted to save the young man from going to trial, and “have some lawyer probing on–about ball bearings.”

[15] The material the defendant has presented does not raise a genuine issue to be tried. The Certificate of Conviction tendered in this case is roughly equivalent to proof of a formal admission. There is nothing arising from the circumstances in which the guilty plea was entered that casts doubt upon the defendant’s intention at the time, or his appreciation of what he was doing. There is no ambiguity in the facts that he admitted. The explanation he offers for sitting through the hearing on September 21st, 2005 while the case was, from his present perspective, grossly mischaracterized, is thoroughly unconvincing…

[17] There will therefore be judgment for the plaintiff on the issue of liability and a referral to the trial list on the issue of quantum.

For more on this topic you can click here to review a recent case where a careless driving guilty plea was a barrier to a civil denial of liability following a motor vehicle collision.

Abuse of Process, bc injury law, Mr. Justice McEwan, Plishka-Humphreys (Guardian ad litem) v. Bolen, Rule 9, Rule 9-5, Rule 9-5(1), Rule 9-5(1)(d)

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ERIK
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Personal Injury Lawyer

When not writing the BC Injury Law Blog, Erik is the managing partner at MacIsaac & Company, based in Victoria, B.C. He is also involved with combative sports regulatory issues and authors the Combat Sports Law Blog.

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