Obtaining punitive damages from police remains “high bar”

The challenge for plaintiffs to obtain punitive damages against police was plainly illustrated yet again according to legal experts after four victims of the 2012 election shooting in a Montreal downtown venue that targeted then-premier-elect Pauline Marois of the Parti Québécois won a partial victory following a court decision that awarded them nearly $300,000 in pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.

Quebec Superior Court Justice Philippe Bélanger found that the provincial and Montreal police forces committed a fault of omission and failed to ensure to ensure the safety of the public after they carried out a flawed security plan that allowed a gunman to kill lighting technician Denis Blanchette and seriously injure a second technician who was struck by the same bullet. Justice Bélanger ordered damages to be paid to Blanchette’s colleagues who survived the shooting after they successfully argued that they suffered from post-traumatic stress and other psychological damage following the shooting.

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Retailer ordered to pay $1 million in punitive damages in class action

Canada’s largest discount furniture and appliance retailer was ordered to pay $2.36 million, including $1 million in punitive damages, to thousands of consumers after Quebec Superior Court found that it engaged in deceptive advertising and marketing with its popular “buy now, pay later” promotions.

The ruling, one of a handful of Quebec class actions that was decided on its merits, represents a convincing victory for consumer’s rights and serves as a cautionary tale for business that rely on false and misleading advertising pitches to lure customers, according to legal experts.

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Quebec telecom company ordered to pay more than $3 million in punitive damages

A Quebec telecommunications firm, Vidéotron Inc., has been ordered to pay more than $3 million in punitive damages to consumers who were charged extra when the Internet service provider unilaterally modified the terms of their so-called “Extreme High Speed” service, held the Quebec Court of Appeal.

In a decision that examines the scope of contractual obligations, the appeal court held that a unilateral modification clause contained in the contract did not authorize Vidéotron to impose fees that “had not been agreed to in the initial contract or to modify goods and services described” in the contract. The unilateral clause in this case would have meant that consumers waived their rights conferred by sections 12 and 40 of the Quebec Consumer Protection Act (Act) – and that is prohibited by sections 261 and 262 of the Act.

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Quebec Human Rights Tribunal awards damages to employee fired because of her health condition

A retirement home has been ordered by the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal to pay more than $11,000 in material, moral and punitive damages to an employee who was fired because of her health condition.

The “important” decision reaffirms the wide reach of article 18.1 of the Quebec Charter of human rights and freedoms, which circumscribes information-gathering at the pre-hiring stage, highlights the importance for employers to have thorough pre-employment medical questionnaires that do not breach the Charter, and underscores the need for employers to take immediate action when employees demonstrate bad faith, according to employment and human rights lawyers.

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Revenue Quebec ordered to pay $2 million in punitive damages

A Montreal businessman who was forced to shut down his business after Quebec tax authorities mishandled his case was awarded nearly $4 million, including a staggering $2 million in punitive damages, following a precedent-setting ruling by Quebec Superior Court.

In an extremely harsh judgment that sheds light on Revenue Quebec’s tax collection policies and questions its administrative practices, Justice Steve Reimnitz held that the provincial tax agency abused its powers, acted maliciously and in bad faith, and exhibited unjustified and blameworthy administrative doggedness in the way it handled the tax file of Groupe Enico Inc. and its founder Jean-Yves Archambault. The comprehensive 197-page ruling in Groupe Enico inc. c. Agence du revenu du Québec 2013 QCCS 5189 details a series of bizarre and improbable events, triggered by a dishonest auditor,  that has been likened by Quebec tax lawyers to an absurd “horror story” that “was bound to happen.”

“There have not been many decisions that have been rendered by the courts where Revenue Quebec has been sued for damages,” pointed out Alexandre Dufresne, a Montreal tax lawyer and managing partner of Spiegel Sohmer. “Not only that, Revenue Quebec lost and the damages were very substantial so in that sense it is a very important decision. The judgment outlines what I would call a horror story – it really was an abusive audit.”

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