Solak v. Brantford Police Services Board, 2022 ONSC 4025

The plaintiff was shot by two police officers while in an alleged mental crisis. The plaintiff and FLA claimants sued the two police officers, three police chiefs, and various John Doe police officers. The plaintiffs claimed damages, including punitive and aggravated damages. The defendants moved to strike the claims against the police chiefs and the John Doe officers, and moved to strike the claims for punitive and aggravated damages. Justice Gibson granted the relief sought, and struck the claims against the police chiefs and the John Doe officers. He also struck the claims for punitive and aggravate damages. He found the police chiefs did not owe a private law duty of care to every member of society who might be at risk. Their duty was to the public as a whole. The John Doe defendants were empty placeholders whose existence was hypothetical and undefined, and there was no indication of how the purported John Doe constables were involved or of what they did or failed to do. Finally, the claims for punitive and aggravated damages lacked facts pled in support of such damages.

Yelland v. Sunrise et al., 2019 ONSC 2842

A resident of the defendant senior residence choked to death as a result of the improper installation of a halo device to her bed. The residence advised the resident’s family that she died of natural causes and the family only learned of the true cause after speaking to the coroner. 14 of the deceased family members pursued claims under the Family Law Act against the residence, the manufacturer of the halo device, and the supplier of the halo device. The manufacturer and supplier settled before trial. At trial, liability was apportioned 25% against the residence. The jury awarded $25,000 in punitive damages against the residence for misleading the family about the cause of death. In obiter, Justice Tzimas noted that the residence’s offer to settle (in an amount only approximately $3,000 shy of the trial award against it) was not a valid Rule 49 offer to settle because it was made to the plaintiffs collectively, and not by way of offers to each individual plaintiff. The plaintiffs were awarded costs in the amount of $445,000.

McCabe v. Roman Catholic Episcopal Corporation

The plaintiff was sexually abused by a priest when he was 11 years old and commenced an action for damages against the defendant church several years later. The church declined to admit liability until the start of trial. The trial proceeded on an assessment of damages and the plaintiff was awarded general damages in the sum of $250,000, damages for future loss of income in the sum of $280,000, treatment expenses in the sum of $5,000, and punitive damages in the sum of $15,000. The church appealed on three grounds: (1) the damages award was inflated because of inflammatory remarks made by plaintiff’s counsel in closing submissions; (2) the trial judge erred in admitting hearsay evidence; and (3) the award for punitive damages was unwarranted. The Court of Appeal set aside the punitive damages award and otherwise dismissed the appeal. The Court held that the trial judge erred in leaving punitive damages to the jury because no jury, properly instructed, could have made such an award. Neither the pleadings nor the facts of the case supported an award of punitive damages. There is no basis in law for a category of punitive damages arising out of the timing of an admission of liability.