Tag: consent

Why OnlyFans and Other Models Should Know About BC’s Intimate Images Protection Act

This week BC passed the Intimate Images Protection Act.

This law gives victims of wrongful intimate image distribution powerful new remedies and rights to control their intimate images online.

The law is broad in its application.  It captures activity such as revenge porn and other wrongful sharing of intimate images.  The broad language may also give power tools to models and others that have their intellectual property shared beyond their consent.

If you have images behind an online paywall you consent to people that subscribe to view your images.  You don’t consent to people stealing the images and reposting them for others to see outside of that paywall.

The BC Intimate Images Protection Act is worded so broadly it may provide a meaningful remedy in these circumstances (and one that is faster and potentially more effective that cumbersome copyright prosecutions).

If you can prove there is an ‘intimate image’ of you online, and you can prove that you do not consent to that image being ‘distributed’ in the way that it is the law gives you remedies.  These include the ability to get a quick BC Civil Resolution Tribunal order that the image be removed.  By whoever is posting it.  Failure to abide by the order can give rise to claims of damages for the continued distribution.  These damages can include claims for compensatory loss (ie lost income), and even aggravated and punitive damages.

If your intimate images are being shared without or beyond your consent get familiar with this law.  If you want to learn more you can contact us for a free consultation. 

 

Intimate Images Protection Act Now Law

The British Columba Intimate Images Protection Act, which was first introduced earlier this month, has now passed into law.  It passed third reading and received Royal Assent on March 30, 2023.

This law was presented to the public as an anti revenge porn law.  But it does so much more than that.

If you have an intimate image ‘distributed’ by others you can tell them to stop.  Even if you previously consented to the sharing or distribution of the image you can revoke your consent.   Anyone who refuses to abide by these wishes can be ordered to stop distributing the images.  The law also gives victims the right to seek compensatory, aggravated and punitive damages for the unwanted distribution of their intimate images.  It applies not just to actual images but even deep fakes and other damaging nude or sexual images.

MacIsaac & Company is proud to expand our legal services to provide victims of unwanted intimate image distribution assistance in sending demand letters, obtaining judicial or tribunal takedown orders, and litigation for damages.

Your Body.  Your Choice.  Even Online.

 

BC Court of Appeal Denies Severe Injury Claim Because Teenaged Plaintiff "Ought to Have Known" Vehicle Driven Without Consent

Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Court of Appeal denying a Plaintiff access to a pool of money intended to compensate people injured at the hands of uninsured motorists.
In the recent case (Schoenhalz v. ICBC) the Plaintiff, who was 17 at the time, was badly injured while riding as a passenger in a vehicle involved in a 2007 collision.  The Plaintiff suffered spinal fractures, various burns to her body, dental injuries and a pelvic fracture.  The driver of the vehicle was found to be negligent and damages of $282,992 were assessed.
The Court found, however, that the driver of the vehicle was not operating it with either the express or implied consent of the owner.  Accordingly the lawsuit against the vehicle owner was dismissed.    The driver was 15 years of age at the time and did not have a license.  The Court concluded that “at the time of the accident (the Plaintiff) knew that (the driver) was age 15 and did not have a driver’s license.”.
ICBC denied coverage to the Plaintiff and the current lawsuit was commenced.   As discussed several years ago, a Plaintiff cannot access section 20 uninsured motorist funds if they “at the time of the accident as a result of which the bodily injury, death or loss of or damage to property was suffered, was an operator of, or a passenger in or on, a vehicle that the person knew or ought to have known was being operated without the consent of the owner, and, in the case of a leased motor vehicle, the lessee.”
A similar exclusion exists if a Plaintiff seeks to access their own Underinsured Motorist Protection coverage.  Section 148(4)(c) of the Insurance (Vehicle) Regulation lets ICBC off the hook in circumstances where the Plaintiff ” is an operator of, or a passenger in or on, a vehicle that the insured knew or ought to have known was being operated without the consent of the owner.
In finding ICBC was right to deny coverage the BC Court of Appeal noted as follows:

[44]         Having canvassed counsel on this line of cases and on the “adult activity” line most recently considered in Nespolon v. Alford (1998) 110 O.A.C. 108, lve. to app. dism’d.[1998] S.C.C.A. No. 452, I do not find it necessary to consider them further in this case. Both lines concern the law of negligence as applied to young persons – but this is not the context before us. As I read s. 91, this case is concerned only with whether a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s place ought to have known Ms. Reeves was driving without the owner’s consent. In my opinion, a reasonable person would (as the trial judge here acknowledged) have known this; and even if one took into account the plaintiff’s age and experience, the test would also be met. As Mr. Brown submits, the plaintiff, age 17, had a driver’s license and was aware Ms. Reeves was too young to be licensed and that the owner’s permission was needed to drive the Camaro.

[45]         The trial judge reasoned that while it would not be reasonable for an adult to assume that Luke “was able to give [the girls] Steven’s permission when he directed them to take the car”, it had been reasonable for an “incredibly young” 17-year-old girl to have believed he would. With respect, it seems to me that the trial judge here erred in applying a largely subjective standard in the face of statutory wording that has long connoted a well-understood objective standard. With respect, a reasonable person “ought to have known”, and indeed would have known, that neither Steven Hammond nor his mother was consenting to the Camaro being driven by an unlicensed 15-year-old. I agree with counsel for ICBC that as a matter of public policy, there is no rationale for holding the plaintiff to a lower standard in relation to her decision to become the passenger of Ms. Reeves.

[46]         In my opinion, if Ms. Schoenhalz did not “know” that the car was being driven without the owner’s consent, she “ought to have known” that this was the case. I would allow the appeal and set aside the order granted by the trial judge in this proceeding.

 

Judge Compels Plaintiff to Sign "Consent Form" In Court Ordered Doctor Exam

The law is split on whether a litigant can be forced to sign a consent form when attending a court ordered medico-legal appointment.  Today reasons for judgement were published providing further judicial commentary on the topic finding such an order is permissible.
In today’s case (Wee v. Fowler) the Plaintiff was involved in a vehicle collision and sued for damages.  In the course of the lawsuit an order was made that the Plaintiff attend a defence medical exam. When the Plaintiff attended the doctor required a consent form to be signed.  The Plaintiff refused and the exam did not take place.
The Defendant obtained a new order requiring attendance and signing the form.  In making this order Madam Justice Harris provided the following reasons:

[37]         The only remaining issue is whether the form of consent which Dr. Hirsch proposed is reasonable. While it is not strictly necessary for me to address this issue in light of my conclusions above, in the circumstances of this case, I consider it appropriate to do so.

[38]         The plaintiff objects to the form on the basis that:

                           i.          it requires the plaintiff to agree that Dr. Hirsch is independent of the parties;

                          ii.          that she is not in a doctor/patient relationship with him;

                        iii.          that she received an explanation as to the nature of the assessment; and

                        iv.          that she was there voluntarily or pursuant to a court order arising from Rule 7‑6(1).

[39]         The form of consent proposed by Dr. Hirsch was as follows:

Consent to Independent Medical Examination

I, ________________, date of birth ___________________ consent to participate in an independent medical examination (“IME”) conducted by Dr. Gabriel Hirsch. I am participating in the IME voluntarily or pursuant to Court Order arising from Rule 7-6(1) of the British Columbia Supreme Court Civil Rules.

I understand that Dr. Hirsh is not my treating physician and that no doctor/patient relationship arises from the IME. I also understand that Dr. Hirsch is independent of the parties involved in this matter and is not an employee of the party requesting the IME.

I acknowledge that I have received an explanation as to the nature of the assessment that will be undertaken in the IME and I authorize Dr. Hirsch to perform an assessment that includes a medical history, physical examination, review of medical imaging, tests, medical records, reports, and/or employment and school records related to my condition.

I understand that the assessment may be terminated if Dr. Hirsch determines that it is in the interest of my health and safety. I understand that I may choose to stop the assessment at any time.

I acknowledge that subsequent to the IME and pursuant to Rule 7-6(1) of the British Columbia Supreme Court Civil Rules, Dr. Hirsch may provide a medical-legal report to the referring source for the purposes of litigation. I release Dr. Hirsch and his employees from any claims which may arise as a result of the release of the above information. I am aware that the right to distribution of the report lies with the referring source and not Dr. Hirsch.

In signing this document I consent to take participate in this IME.

Dated this _________ day of _____________, 2016.

 

Signature of Evaluee: _________________________

Print Name: _________________________________

Signature of Witness: _________________________

Print Name: _________________________________

[40]         With respect to the plaintiff’s first objection, the plaintiff suggests that Dr. Hirsch is not “independent” as he receives instructions and communicates with only one party. While it is true that Dr. Hirsch was retained by one party to the litigation, under Rule 11-2, an expert who is retained to provide an opinion, which includes physicians conducting IME’s like Dr. Hirsch, has a duty to assist the court and not be an advocate for any party. Dr. Hirsch is, therefore, to perform a role that is truly independent of the parties to the litigation. In that regard, I note that both parties refer to Dr. Hirsch conducting an “independent medical examination” in their correspondence, which is reflective of the generally accepted role of physicians conducting such examinations. I do not accept that the reference in the consent form to Dr. Hirsch being independent or to his conducting an independent medical examination to be unreasonable.

[41]         The plaintiff also objects to the requirement that the plaintiff confirm her understanding that there is no doctor‑patient relationship arising from the IME. In my view, the statement, read in its context, elucidates its meaning, that is, Dr. Hirsch, although conducting a medical assessment, is not her treating physician. I am not prepared to find, without any evidence, that this statement is ambiguous or outside the knowledge of the plaintiff who, I note from the materials included in the Application Record, is a registered nurse working in a hospital setting. In any event, this is a matter which the plaintiff could ask of Dr. Hirsch should she need any clarification.

[42]         The third objection is that the plaintiff is asked to confirm in advance that she has received an explanation as to the nature of the assessment. Again, I do not have evidence that suggests Dr. Hirsch did not or would not discuss the nature of the assessment prior to commencing the IME or prior to asking the plaintiff to complete the consent form. I find no basis for this objection.

[43]         The final objection to the proposed form of consent is that it requires the plaintiff to agree that her attendance is voluntary or pursuant to Rule 7-6(1). The plaintiff suggests that it is either one or the other. In my view, these are the two usual circumstances under which a party participates in an IME, and the reference is simply descriptive of the basis for the plaintiff’s participation. I do not accept there is merit to the plaintiff’s objection.

[44]         Accordingly, I find that the consent form proposed by Dr. Hirsch to be reasonable.

Court – Consent to Defendant Medical Exam Terms Or Risk Claim Dismissal

Forced consent is a strange concept and one that has found its way into injury litigation yet again.
Reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, ordering a plaintiff to attend a Defence medical exam and to sign a consent form or risk claim dismissal.
In today’s case (Gill v. Wal-Mart Corporation) the Plaintiff alleged injury following a slip and fall.  The Plaintiff agreed to attend an independent medical assessment requested by the Defendant but refused to sign the doctor’s ‘consent’ form.  In ordering the Plaintiff to sign or risk claim dismissal Mr. Justice Funt provided the following reasons:

[39]         With respect to the Master’s second reason that the plaintiff would not be signing the form of consent voluntarily, I respectfully disagree. The plaintiff may choose not to sign the consent form in which case the IME will not be conducted. The defendant may, however, bring an application to strike the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant.

[40]         Although not necessary having regard to the binding authority of Kalaora, I note that the case at bar is readily distinguishable from Peel where our Court of Appeal set aside an order requiring particular parties to endorse a “consent order”. Ordering endorsement of a “consent” court order is not consent. In the case at bar, in context, the court is not forcing the plaintiff to sign the form of consent. If the plaintiff chooses not to sign the form of consent, the plaintiff’s claim may be struck. It is the plaintiff’s choice…

[52]         The plaintiff is ordered to sign the subject form of consent used by Dr. Travlos. If the plaintiff refuses to sign the form of consent, the defendant, Mr. Pandher, is at liberty to apply to have the plaintiff’s claim struck.

No Forced "Consent" When Attending Court Ordered Medical Examination

Update January 30, 2017the below case, in reasons for judgement released today, was largely overturned on appeal
______________________________________________
Although there are conflicting authorities on the subject in British Columbia, reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, finding it is not appropriate for a Court to order a Plaintiff to sign a ‘consent’ form when attending a court ordered independent medical exam.
In today’s case (Gill v. Wal-Mart Canada Corporation) the Plaintiff sued the Defendant for personal injuries after a slip and fall incident.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff agreed to be examined by a physician of the Defendant’s choosing but refused to sign a ‘consent’ form the physician required.  The Defendant asked the Court to order the Plaintiff to sign the consent form but the application was dismissed.  In finding judicially ordered ‘consent’ to be inappropriate Master Harper provided the following reasons:

[31]         In my view, because an order compelling an IME is discretionary, I am not bound by Kalaora or Nikolic to order that the plaintiff sign the consent form. I prefer to follow the reasoning of Peel. In addition, although Dr. Travlos and the College have a legitimate interest in ensuring that a person attending for an IME is properly informed about all aspects of the IME, there are alternative methods to compelled consent to convey the information. I conclude that the plaintiff in this case should not be compelled to sign the consent form required by Dr. Travlos.

[32]         Even if I were of the view that Ms. Gill should be compelled to sign a reasonable consent form, Dr. Travlos’s consent form contains clauses that are not reasonable.

i)       First, Ms. Gill should not be expected to have to agree in writing as to the definition of physiatrist: Slobodzian v. Mitchell and Hameiri (unreported, February 2, 2015, Courtenay Supreme Court Action S085376);

ii)     Second, the last paragraph of the consent form contains this statement: “I am signing this document voluntarily …”. Ms. Gill would not be signing the document voluntarily if compelled to do so by court order;

iii)    Third, the consent form says:

I hereby release Dr. Travlos, his employees and agents, from any and all claims whatsoever, which may arise as a result of the release of the above information.

The clause is difficult to interpret. Dr. Travlos might mean that he is released from liability for releasing the report to the referring source. Or, he might mean that he is released from liability for releasing the report to someone other than the referring source. In either case, a release of liability goes beyond the bounds of a reasonable consent form.

[33]         In Mund v. Braun, 2010 BCSC 1714, the IME doctor required the execution of a jurisdiction agreement. The plaintiff declined to sign it and the court declined to order the plaintiff to sign it on the basis that the court did not have jurisdiction to order the plaintiff to sign a jurisdiction agreement. The release of liability in Dr. Travlos’s consent form is in the same category and is therefore objectionable.

[34]         Both Dr. Travlos and the College have a legitimate interest in ensuring that persons attending IMEs understand the nature and purpose of the IME. Clarity is always better than confusion.

[35]         The options presented on this application were limited to the court ordering the consent form be signed, or not. In my view, there are other options. The desired outcome of a party attending an IME fully informed about the IME could be met if the court were asked to incorporate reasonable terms into the order granting the IME. Those terms would meet the reasonable and legitimate interests of the plaintiff, the defendant, the examining doctor and the College.

[36]         Of course, the terms would have to be acceptable to the doctor or the exercise is meaningless. A drawback to this option is the unnecessary increase in court applications. Both Dr. Travlos and the doctor in Kalaora said that most people seeing them for IMEs consent. It would not be proportionate to require all applications for IMEs to result in a court order.

[37]         The concerns about “improved communication by physicians” and “enhanced understanding by patients” expressed in the guideline could also be met by the doctor providing written information about the IME to the party in advance of the examination. This option would be simpler and less expensive than a court order incorporating the information the doctor seeks to convey to the person being examined.

[38]         An even better option might be for the College to amend its guideline to provide recommendations for physicians conducting IMEs that are court-ordered and not by consent. 

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


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.

Supreme Court Holds Failure To Disclose HIV Status Can Still Vitiate Sexual Consent In Canada

In 1998 the Supreme Court of Canada held that failure to disclose HIV positive status could vitiate consent making otherwise consensual sexual encounters criminal in nature and further exposing the non-disclosing party to civil suits for damages for sexual assault.  This reasoning has been controversial over the years and the Supreme Court of Canada revisited the issue in reasons for judgement released today.
In today’s case (R v. Mabior) Chief Justice McLachlin held that failure to disclose can still vitiate consent but not in all circumstances adding a “significant risk” factor to the analysis.  The Court provided the following reasons:
[104]                     To summarize, to obtain a conviction under ss. 265(3)(c) and 273, the Crown must show that the complainant’s consent to sexual intercourse was vitiated by the accused’s fraud as to his HIV status.  Failure to disclose (the dishonest act) amounts to fraud where the complainant would not have consented had he or she known the accused was HIV-positive, and where sexual contact poses a significant risk of or causes actual serious bodily harm (deprivation).  A significant risk of serious bodily harm is established by a realistic possibility of transmission of HIV.  On the evidence before us, a realistic possibility of transmission is negated by evidence that the accused’s viral load was low at the time of intercourse and that condom protection was used.  However, the general proposition that a low viral load combined with condom use negates a realistic possibility of transmission of HIV does not preclude the common law from adapting to future advances in treatment and to circumstances where risk factors other than those considered in the present case are at play.
 

Compelled Independent Medical Exams and "Consent"


Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, addressing a much debated topic; can a Plaintiff be forced to sign a ‘consent‘ document when compelled to attend an independent medical exam under the Rules of Court.  In short the Court held that this was possible.
In this week’s case (Kalaora v. Gordon) the Plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle collision and sued for damages.  In the course of the lawsuit the Plaintiff agreed to attend a defence medical exam.  At the appointment the physician asked the Plaintiff to sign a consent form authorizing the physician to proceed with the medical examination.  The Plaintiff refused to sign this.  The Defendant brought an application to compel this document to be signed.  In granting the application Madam Justice Hyslop provided the following reasons:

[79] Rule 13-1(19) of the Supreme Court Civil Rules provides assistance in this matter:

Orders on terms and conditions

(19) When making an order under these Supreme Court Civil Rules, the court may impose terms and conditions and give directions it considers will further the object of these Supreme Court Civil Rules.

[80] In Nikolic, Mr. Justice Williams stated that Rule 1(12) (the former Rule)

grants the court wide discretionary powers, in the making of orders, to impose terms and conditions and give directions as its thinks just. Read collectively [he is referring to the then document rules], a master or judge of this Court has the jurisdiction to create the mechanisms by which relevant non-privileged documents in a litigant’s “power” will be produced, including the jurisdiction to order him or her to execute the necessary documentation allowing a record-holder, whether residing in or outside British Columbia, to effect the release of those documents.

Rule 13-1(19) together with Rule 7-6(1), (the medical examination rule) read together, permit the court to order that the plaintiff to sign an authorization.

[81] By refusing to sign a consent or give a verbal agreement, Dr. Smith is open to charges of assault and battery. To insist that the defendant find another psychiatrist to pursue the medical examination without the consent of the plaintiff is unlikely.

[82] When plaintiff’s counsel consented to the medical examination of Mr. Kalaora by Dr. Smith, and Mr. Kalaora appeared at Dr. Smith’s office as scheduled, it certainly could be inferred that Mr. Kalaora agreed to the medical examination. However, when he refused to sign the consent or consent verbally, he withdrew that consent.

[83] Based on the case law, the Supreme Court Civil Rules and their purpose, the underlying need for full disclosure, the court can order a litigant to sign a consent or authorization.

[84] The plaintiff made it clear that they are agreeable to attending a medical examination with Dr. Smith. I order that the plaintiff attend a medical examination with Dr. Smith at a time and place as agreed. I order that the plaintiff sign an authorization or consent in the exact terms as sought by Dr. Smith for the original medical examination which did not proceed.

For two recent case summaries further discussing the Court’s ability to order a Plaintiff to sign authorizations/waivers you can click here and here.  From my perspective there appears to be some inconsistency in the authorities addressing the power of the BC Supreme Court to order a Plaintiff to sign an authorization and clarification from the BC Court of Appeal or by way of Rules Amendment would be helpful.

More on BC Sex Abuse Civil Claims; Consent and School Board Liability

Important reasons for judgement were released today by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, awarding a Plaintiff just over $110,000 for damages flowing from a ‘consensual‘ sexual relationship she had with her high school teacher.
While today’s case is likely to receive media attention due to its sexual theme, it is worth discussing more so because it highlights two important topics that sometimes arise in sexual abuse civil prosecutions; consent and vicarious liability.
In today’s case (AB v. CD) the Plaintiff had several sexual encounters with her grade 12 English teacher.   Following this relationship she sued him for damages and the school board claiming they were vicariously liable for the harm caused by the relationship.  The claim against the teacher was successful but the claim against the school board was dismissed.
The nature of the sexual encounters are summarized at paragraphs 28-52 of the reasons for judgement.  There is no need to repeat them here.  The Plaintiff agreed that “she had consented to…the touching incidents“.   Despite this admission, however, people in authority cannot have consensual sexual contact with people under their authority who are under 18 years of age as this is contrary to section 150.1 of Canada’s Criminal Code.
The school board’s lawyer argued that despite this prohibition, “consent remains a defence in a civil action for sexual assault“.  Madam Justice Gray soundly rejected this argument finding as follows:
[102] The Criminal Code provisions recognize that young people are inherently vulnerable to persons in positions of authority or trust.  While such young people may think that they are making a free choice to engage in a relationship with a person in authority, the very nature of the relationship precludes a free choice.
[103]  Like Stromberg-Stein J., I conclude that it would introduce an odd and problematic inconsistency in the law if a young person were considered legally incapable of consenting to sexual activity for the purposes of the criminal law, but were capable of giving such consent in a related civil action.
[104]  The public policy set out in the Criminal Code has the effect that a young person under the age of 18 cannot consent to sexual contact with a person in authority, as a matter of law, whether the applicable proceedings are criminal or civil.
[105]  As a result, CD is liable to AB for any damages she suffered as a consequence of the sexual battery.
(on a related note, click here to read a BC Court of Appeal decision released this week upholding a criminal conviction of an individual who failed to let his partners know he was HIV positive finding this omission was a ‘fraudulent misrepresentation’ which overrides otherwise consensual sexual contact)
The next issue that was noteworthy was the Court’s discussion of vicarious liability.  As previously discussed, the law sometimes holds an employer responsible for the deeds of an employee even though the employer did not act negligently.  The law of the vicarious liability of School Boards for the sexual battery by teachers is still developing in Canada and there are relatively few judgements addressing this topic.
Madam Justice Gray found that the School Board should not be vicariously liable on the narrow facts of this case and in doing so provided a useful discussion of applicable legal principles at paragraphs 131-155 of the reasons for judgement and applied the Bazley principles to the facts of the case at paragraph 157.

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ERIK
MAGRAKEN

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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