Tag: vicarious liability

Welcome Australian Broadcasting Corporation Listeners


The Australian Broadcast Corporation has recently been reporting on their Nation’s inquiry into historic sexual abuse involving religious organizations.
In the context of this story I had the pleasure to participate in a recent interview with ABC’s Anita Barraud discussing the circumstances when Canadian Courts will allow a damage claim to succeed not just against the perpetrator of the abuse but also against the organization itself under the doctrine of ‘vicarious liability‘.  An audio clip of my interview can be found here which aired in Australia earlier today:
bst_20120424_0848.mp3
For those of you visiting this site looking for more information regarding Canada’s application of vicarious liability in the context of civil damage claims for sexual abuse you can click here to access my archived post addressing this topic.

Section 10 WCB Bar Fails to Protect Ministry of Solicitor General


(Update June 19, 2013 – the below decision was overturned in reasons for judgement released today by the BC Court of Appeal)
As previously discussed, Section 10 of the BC Workers Compensation Act can strip people of their right to sue if they are injured in the course of their employment by someone else in the course of their employment.
When a police officer in the course of their duties injuries someone through negligence they may be subject to this bar.  However, when an RCMP officer is negligent they usually enjoy personal immunity from lawsuits and instead the injured party needs to look to the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General for compensation who are exposed by statute for liability when RCMP members are negligent in the course of their duties.  (Note: this Ministry has recently been overhauled and renamed the Ministry of Justice)
Interesting reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Nanaimo Registry, discussing the interplay of the WCB Bar to lawsuits and actions against the Minister of Solicitor General for negligence of RCMP officers.
In last week’s case (Aitken v. Bethell) the Plaintiff was seriously injured while sitting in a parked vehicle.  The RCMP were in pursuit of the Defendant Bethell who lost control of his vehicle, colliding with another, and eventually causing a collision with the Plaintiff’s vehicle.  The Plaintiff sued various parties including the police officer.
Both the Plaintiff and the Police officer were found to be in the course of their employment at the time of the crash.   The Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General brought an application to have the lawsuit against them dismissed relying on the WCB section 10 bar.  Mr. Justice Halfyard refused to do so finding that while the bar could prevent the lawsuit against the individual officer, the Minister did not enjoy the same immunity as they were not an ‘employer‘ and their liability was created by virtue of statue.  In permitting the claim to proceed Mr. Justice Halfyard provided the following reasons:

[66]I have attached s. 10(1) of the Act as an appendix to these reasons. It seems to me that, in a negligence action for damages for personal injury, in order for a defendant to succeed in this defence, it must be established:

a)that the plaintiff, at the time of the alleged injury, was a “worker;”

b)that the alleged injury “[arose] out of and in the course of [the plaintiff’s] employment;”

c)that the defendant was the plaintiff’s employer, or the plaintiff’s co-worker, or “any employer within the scope of this Part” (i.e., Part 1 of the Act), or “any worker;” and

d)that the conduct of the defendant which is alleged to have caused the injury “arose out of and in the course of employment within the scope of this Part” (i.e. Part 1 of the Act).

[67]Where the statutory bar applies in favour of a defendant, the plaintiff cannot maintain his or her action as against that defendant. The plaintiff is restricted to making a claim for workers compensation in respect of the injury caused by that defendant.

[68]It appeared to be common ground that, if the Minister was an employer within the meaning of the Workers Compensation Act, then s. 10(1) would be an absolute bar to any action being brought against him by the plaintiff, i.e., a “worker,” (for any tort allegedly committed by him or by a police officer), even though neither the government nor the Minister was the employer of the police officers involved. The potential scope of the statutory bar appears to be broad…

[80]It seems to me that the Court of Appeal is saying, by necessary implication, that the province cannot be vicariously liable under s. 11 of the Police Act, and that only the Minister can be. If that is so, then on hindsight, it would appear that Mr. Justice Macaulay should not have granted judgment against both the government and the Minister, but should only have found the Minister to be vicariously liable. To my mind, that result cancels out the argument of the applicants based on Hill v. Hurst.

[81]If the plaintiff had sued the Government of British Columbia (which would have to be named as “Her Majesty the Queen in Right of the Province of British Columbia”: s. 7 of the Crown Proceedings Act), the finding of WCAT that the government was an employer within the meaning of the Workers Compensation Act could have the legal effect of entitling the government to the statutory bar in s. 10 of the Act (but only if the conduct of the government, or its servant or agent, was a cause of the injury, and that conduct “arose out of and in the course of employment”). But the plaintiff has not sued the government, nor could he have sued the government, in my opinion. I am not persuaded that the Minister should be accorded the status of an employer for the purpose of s. 10(1) of the Act, simply because the government is an employer and because the Minister is the designate, or is the agent of, the government for the purposes of the Police Act.

City Not Vicariously Liable For Alleged Sexual Abuse by Police Officer

With more victims of historic childhood sexual abuse prepared to come forward and have their claims heard we have the benefit of more decisions being published by the BC Courts addressing the circumstances when an institution will be held vicariously liable for sexual abuse by their employees.  Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, further addressing this area of law.
In last week’s case (R.G. v. Vancouver Police Board) the Plaintiff alleged to be the victim of historic sexual abuse at the hands of the Defendant police officer.  (its worth noting the Court made no findings about whether the abuse actually took place).
In his childhood the Plaintiff “alternated between living with his parents….and living with Mr. Hughes“.  They formed what was described as a father-son relationship.  The Plaintiff alleged he was abused in the course of this relationship.  The Defendant was a member of the Vancouver Police Department at the time.
The Plaintiff sued the personal defendant and also the City of Vancouver arguing they were vicariously liable for the abuse.  Mr. Justice Burnyeat disagreed and dismissed this portion of the Plaintiff’s claim.  In finding no employer vicarious liability should arise in these circumstances the Court provided the following reasons:

[27] The Plaintiff submits that society teaches children from an early age to trust police officers and that makes children and young people particularly vulnerable to the abuse of power by police officers.  In the circumstances, the Plaintiff submits that the City “has sufficient control, either directly or indirectly through its constant presence on the Board, to be vicariously liable for Hughes’ wrongdoing”, and that the City “had sufficient power over him through his extracurricular activities – pistol shooting competitions and fishing derbies, during which his abuse of … [the plaintiff] continued that it should be held vicariously liable”.

[28] If I could conclude that Mr. Hughes was an employee of the City, I could not conclude that his wrongful acts were sufficiently related to conduct authorized by the City.  I can find no “significant connection”.  I can only find that there were incidental connections between the abuse that occurred and the location of the abuse.  Many of the alleged abuses took place in VPD vehicles.  However, the power that was exerted by Mr. Hughes was the power flowing from the “father-son” relationship which had grown and not any relationship between the Plaintiff and Mr. Hughes as a police officer.  As well, the fact that Mr. Hughes was granted access to a VPD police vehicle did not afford any particular ability for Mr. Hughes to abuse his power.

[29] In rejecting the submission made on behalf of the Plaintiff, I cannot conclude that the wrongful acts of Mr. Hughes are sufficiently related to conduct authorized by the City to justify the imposition of vicarious liability.  There is not a significant connection between any promotion by the City and by society in general to promulgate the message that children should be taught from an early age to trust police officials and the significant wrongs that are alleged to have occurred.

Sex Abuse Settlements and the "Re-Victimization" of Confidentiality Agreements

Earlier this year I posed the question “are secret sex abuse settlements unethical?“.
This question was raised in the face of CBC’s reporting that Scouts Canada settled sex abuse claims and that confidentiality was a staple term.  CBC has continued to follow this matter.  Scouts Canada has softened their approach with respect to these settlements and now CBC reports that a historic abuse victim welcomes this development stating It means freedom to speak as I wish — should I choose to speak — or not speak.”

When asked about the consequences of the confidentiality agreement following settlement CBC reports the following quote attributed to the victim of historic abuse In a sense, you are revictimized...You become the isolated person who has to not tell anybody what the most important thing in your life is.”
Given this profound burden I repeat the question, is there any greater good that comes from the enforcement of these confidentiality agreements which outweighs their harm?

Employer Not Vicariously Liable for Abuse Between Adult Co-Workers in Commercial Enterprise

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, addressing whether an employer should be found vicariously liable for harm caused by sexual abuse committed by one worker against another.  In short the Court found that without an employer giving more than an opportunity for abuse by virtue of “time and place” vicarious liability should not apply.
In last week’s case (Corfield v. Shaw) the Plaintiff was victimized on a number of occasions by her supervisor at work.   The supervisor was found liable and ordered to pay damages.  The Court was asked to find the employer vicariously liable for the abuse but refused to do so finding that the law should not extend liability in these circumstances.  In dismissing the claim against the employer Mr. Justice Butler provided the following reasons:

[73] The question a court must consider where there has been a sexual battery is whether the unauthorized acts of the employee are so connected with authorized acts that “they may be regarded as modes (albeit improper modes) of doing authorized acts”.  In Bazley, the court set out a two-step process for determining when an unauthorized act is so connected to the employer’s enterprises that vicarious liability should be imposed.  The first step is to consider whether there are precedents which unambiguously determine whether vicarious liability should apply in the circumstances.  The second step is to determine whether vicarious liability should be imposed in light of the policy rationales behind strict liability.

[74] The parties did not fully argue the first step analysis; whether there are precedents applicable to the vicarious liability analysis in this case.  This is likely because very few decisions which have considered the vicarious liability of employers since Bazley involve adult co-workers in commercial enterprises. ..

[76] In the absence of prior decisions which unambiguously determine whether vicarious liability should be found, I must proceed to the second step of the analysis.  This is described at paras. 41 and 42 in Bazley.  At this stage of the analysis, a court is to “openly confront the question of whether liability should lie against the employer”.  That is done by considering if there is “a significant connection between the creation or enhancement of a risk and the wrong that accrues”.  Incidental connections to the employment enterprise, like time and place (without more), will not suffice.  Once engaged in a particular business, it is fair that an employer be made to pay the generally foreseeable costs of that business.  In contrast, to impose liability for costs unrelated to the risk would effectively make the employer an involuntary insurer.

[77] At para. 41 of Bazley, McLachlin J. (as she then was) set out some of the factors that may be considered by a court to determine if there was a strong connection between what the employer was asking the employee to do (i.e. the risk created by the employer’s enterprise) and the wrongful act:

(a)   the opportunity that the enterprise afforded the employee to abuse his or her power;

(b)   the extent to which the wrongful act may have furthered the employer’s aims (and hence be more likely to have been committed by the employee);

(c)   the extent to which the wrongful act was related to friction, confrontation or intimacy inherent in the employer’s enterprise;

(d)   the extent of power conferred on the employee in relation to the victim;

(e)   the vulnerability of potential victims to wrongful exercise of the employee’s power.

[78] At para. 46, McLachlin J. summarizes the approach to this step:

In summary, the test for vicarious liability for an employee’s sexual abuse of a client should focus on whether the employer’s enterprise and empowerment of the employee materially increased the risk of the sexual assault and hence the harm. The test must not be applied mechanically, but with a sensitive view to the policy considerations that justify the imposition of vicarious liability __ fair and efficient compensation for wrong and deterrence. This requires trial judges to investigate the employee’s specific duties and determine whether they gave rise to special opportunities for wrongdoing. Because of the peculiar exercises of power and trust that pervade cases such as child abuse, special attention should be paid to the existence of a power or dependency relationship, which on its own often creates a considerable risk of wrongdoing.

[79] When I apply the relevant factors to the circumstances of this case, I conclude that there was not a strong connection between what Mr. Shaw was asked to do and the sexual assaults he committed.  The opportunity afforded to Mr. Shaw to abuse his power was not significant or unusual.  The assignment of work was done openly.  There was ample opportunity for employees to raise issues about the work or work assignments with senior management, Mr. Baker.  The wrongful acts did not further the employer’s aims in any way.  It cannot be seriously contended that there was friction, confrontation or intimacy inherent in the business of Baker Industries.  There was nothing about the operation of a residential service plumbing business that created situations of intimacy between employees.  While Mr. Shaw was provided with supervisory authority in relation to Ms. Corfield and other employees, the power given to him was not extensive.  As I have already noted, it was not power that could be easily used for a wrongful purpose.  Finally, plumbers in the employ of Baker Industries would not be expected to be potentially vulnerable to the wrongful exercise of Mr. Shaw’s authority as a supervisor.

[80] In short, there is nothing about the enterprise of Baker Industries or the authority imparted to Mr. Shaw that materially increased the risk of sexual assault of fellow employees.  Quite simply, this is a situation where Mr. Shaw took advantage of incidental connections to Ms. Corfield that occurred in an employment relationship.  He took advantage of the opportunities of time and place.  That alone is not sufficient for a finding of vicarious liability.

Are Secret Sex Abuse Settlements Unethical?

When sex abuse lawsuits settle out of court confidentiality agreements are often an accompanying term.  The Abuser (or institutions who employed the abuser) often suggest such clauses.  If a victim of abuse enters into such a contract and later speaks out they can jeopardize their settlement.

The CBC has recently reported that “Scouts Canada has signed out-of-court confidentiality agreements with more than a dozen child sex-abuse victims in recent years“.   This issue has a connection to British Columbia with CBC’s interactive map documenting some Scouts related abuse cases in BC.

A reader of this blog recently asked the following pointed question: “Would your parents have put you in Scouts if those cases had been published?

This is a good question worth publicly posting here.  Is there any good that comes from confidentiality agreements in sex abuse litigation?  If not is there any reason why these agreements should be enforceable given the greater harm that secrecy can create?

More on Implied Consent of Registered Vehicle Owners: "Reasonable Inferences"

Reasons for judgement were released last week by the BC Supreme Court, Vancouver Registry, dealing with an interesting issue – can a Court infer consent to operate when a commercial vehicle is involved in a ‘hit and run’ collision?
In last week’s case (Perret v. John Doe) the Plaintiff was injured in a 2005 collision.  She was run off the road by a U-Haul truck which was driving the wrong way on the highway.  The driver of the U-Haul did not remain at the scene of the accident.  The Plaintiff sued U-Haul arguing they are vicariously liable for the careless driver’s deeds under s. 86 of the Motor Vehicle Act.  She also sued ICBC under the unidentified motorist provisions of the Insurance (Vehicle) Act.
ICBC brought an application arguing U-Haul is at fault and that they are liable for the crash because anyone driving the vehicle likely had their consent to do so.  U-Haul opposed arguing ICBC should pay for the Plaintiff’s damages as this was an unidentified motorist claim and consent could not be proven.
The Court was asked to determine “whether ICBC or…U-Haul Co. is the proper Defendant” as a special case under Rule 9-3.  Ultimately the Court held that U-Haul was the proper defendant finding that it was reasonable to infer, on a balance of probabilities, that the driver had the company’s consent to drive.  In reaching this conclusion the Court made the following findings:







[15] The following agreed facts about the accident of May 12, 2005, could support a finding of consent:

1) The truck which caused the plaintiff to lose control of her vehicle was owned by U-Haul;

2) U-Haul rents vehicles to customers in British Columbia;

3) U-Haul consents to drivers, other than the person with whom it contracted, to drive the vehicle if they are at least 18 years of age and have a driver’s licence;

4) Approximately 135 U-Haul vehicles were rented in British Columbia on May 12, 2005;

5) There were 114 vehicles owned by U-Haul Canada that were previously stolen and unrecovered on May 12, 2005, of which 15 had been stolen in British Columbia; and

6) The driver of the U-Haul that caused the accident was probably a man in his 50s.

[16] What I derive from the above agreed facts is that:

1) It is probable that the U-Haul vehicle was not stolen. That suggests it was driven, either by the person who initially rented it, or by someone who that person agreed could drive it, and who was at least 18 years of age. U-Haul accepts that if either is true there is consent, assuming the driver had a driver’s licence;

2) I take notice that a driver in British Columbia must have a driver’s licence and therefore I conclude it is probable this driver had one.

[17] There are other facts which may be inconsistent with consent. They are the following:

1) The driver was clearly lost;

2) The driver may have been uncertain of his ultimate destination;

3) The driver did not stop at the time of the accident.

[18] Those facts may be inconsistent with consent because:

1) It would be expected that a person who rents a U-Haul vehicle will have done so for a particular purpose and will have known his destination and the route he intended to follow;

2) A driver who leaves the scene of an accident may do so because he knew he was driving a stolen vehicle.

[19] However, there are numerous other possible reasons for failing to remain at an accident scene. One could be that the driver did not know he had caused an accident. There was no contact between the vehicles involved in the accident on May 12, 2005. Another could be that the driver knew he had caused an accident and did not wish to face the consequences. There may be a multitude of other reasons peculiar to this driver which caused him to leave the scene of the accident. In my view, the fact the driver left the scene of the accident does not assist in determining the issue of consent.

[20] When considering the circumstances of the accident of May 12, 2005, there is obviously no certainty when attempting to reach a conclusion that the U-Haul vehicle was driven by a person who had consent. However, the law does not require certainty. It does require that I draw a reasonable inference and do not rely on conjecture. The Court of Appeal in Lee v. Jacobson, [1994] B.C.J. No. 2459, has described Caswell v. Powell Duffryn Associated Colleries Ltd., [1940] A.C. 152 (H.L.) [Caswell], as the leading case making that distinction. In Caswell, at 169-70, Lord Wright observed:

My Lords, the precise manner in which the accident occurred cannot be ascertained as the unfortunate young man was alone when he was killed. The Court therefore is left to inference or circumstantial evidence. Inference must be carefully distinguished from conjecture or speculation. There can be no inference unless there are objective facts from which to infer the other facts which it is sought to establish. In some cases the other facts can be inferred with as much practical certainty as if they had been actually observed. In other cases the inference does not go beyond reasonable probability. But if there are no positive proved facts from which the inference can be made, the method of inference fails and what is left is mere speculation or conjecture.

[21] I conclude I can safely draw an inference that it is more likely than not that the driver had consent. I therefore answer question 2 in the affirmative.

[22] ICBC is entitled to its costs against U-Haul, if requested.








More on Registered Owner Liability and the Implied Consent Test


As previously discussedsection 86 of the BC Motor Vehicle Act makes owners or lessees of vehicles responsible for any damage or loss caused by the operation of their vehicle by an individual to whom consent was given.  In other words, if you let someone drive your vehicle and they cause a collision you can be sued to pay the damages.
Usually owners admit they allowed the driver to operate the vehicle.  In these cases there is ‘express consent‘.  Where there is no express agreement the law looks into the circumstances to decide if there was ‘implied consent‘.   Reasons for judgement were released this week by the BC Supreme Court, Victoria Registry, dealing with this area of law.
In this week’s case (Green v. Pelley) two plaintiffs sustained serious injuries when their vehicle was struck by a vehicle (owned by the Defendant McIvor) and driven by the Defendant Pelley.
The Plaintiff’s sued for damages.   There was no issue that Pelley did not have express consent to drive McIvor’s vehicle.  The Plaintiff’s alleged that there was implied consent.  Mr. Justice Saunders disagreed and dismissed the claim against the Defendant McIvor.  In doing so the Court summarized the legal principles with respect to ‘implied consent‘ as follows:





[39] The test for a finding of implied consent under s. 86, in situations where consent has been given to one person but the vehicle ends up being driven by a third party, is as set out in Hartley v. Saunders (1962), 33 D.L.R. (2d) 638 (B.C.S.C.), and in Godsman v. Peck (1997), 29 B.C.L.R. (3d) 37 (C.A.). The evidence must establish that the vehicle owner had both an expectation and willingness that a third party would drive the vehicle.  Both an expectation and willingness must be shown.  One without the other will not suffice: L’Heureux v. Eustache, 2003 BCSC 347 at para. 9.

[40] The requirement that an owner have an actual expectation of a third party driving the vehicle is relaxed, where it is clear from the circumstances that consent would have been given, if sought, as a matter of course in the particular circumstances confronting the person who is in possession by consent: dissenting judgment of Porter J.A. in Palsky v. Humphrey (1963), [1964] 41 D.L.R. (2d) 156 (Alta. S.C. (A.D.)), as approved of and adopted by the Supreme Court of Canada on appeal, [1964] S.C.R. 580 at 662…

[53] The plaintiffs urge me to take a broad view of the concept of consent in light of the legislative intent behind s. 86, which is said to be that of maximizing the availability of compensation for injured parties.  Indeed, Macdonell J. stated in the Bareham decision, at para. 27, that the only public policy reasons to be considered in interpreting s. 86:

. . . are those in favour of protecting innocent third parties seeking compensation for injuries suffered at the hands of negligent automobile drivers and, vicariously, owners.  . . .

Bareham, as I have noted, is a case in which consent was found.  In Bareham, the public policy argument addresses the subject of whether the consent had been vitiated by the driver’s illegal use of the vehicle.

[54] The same public policy considerations were cited by the B.C. Court of Appeal in Morrison (Committee of) v. Cormier Vegetation Control Ltd. (1996), [1997] 28 B.C.L.R. (3d) 280 (C.A.), at para. 24, as justifying the legislation’s departure from the common law’s strict approach to vicarious liability.  These same considerations were also cited in Barreiro v. Arana, 2003 BCCA 58, as justifying the statute’s modification of the law of agency.

[55] Godsman, in which the Court of Appeal approved of and restated the “willingness and expectation” test, was decided after Morrison and Bareham.  I do not read Barreiro as having modified the Godsman test in any way.

[56] I find that there is no evidence of Mr. McIvor having consented by implication to Pelley’s operation of the vehicle.  Therefore, as I understand the issue before me, the claim of the plaintiffs against Mr. McIvor based on vicarious liability is to be dismissed.





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.

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


(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.

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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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