New tort in family violence recognized in Ontario

Following in the footsteps of Quebec, a new tort in family violence has been recognized in Ontario.

In Quebec, there are some 20 cases that awarded damages to victims of spousal abuse, a figure that is less than the number of decisions that have granted damages to ex-spouses for online harassment, point out legal experts. But there are signs that is about to change.

“It is a trend that will accelerate, and that’s because of the new amendments in the Divorce Act,” family law expert Michel Tétrault told me last year.

He may be right.

In Ahluwalia v. Ahluwalia, 2022 ONSC 1303, Ontario Superior Court Justice Renu Mandhane held that

[4]… I am prepared to award $150,000 in compensatory, aggregated, and punitive damages for the tort of family violence. I recognize that making such a significant damage award is well-outside the normal boundaries of family law. In the typical marriage, characterized by economic interdependence and mutual support, the family law statutory framework will be a complete code that allows for the fair, predictable, and efficient resolution of the parties’ financial issues post-separation.

[5] However, the marriage before me was not typical: it was characterized by the Father’s abuse, and a sixteen-year pattern of coercion and control. It was not just “unhappy” or “dysfunctional”; it was violent. The family violence the Mother endured at the hands of the Father is not compensated through an award of spousal support. Indeed, the Divorce Act_, R.S.C., 1985, c. 3 (2nd Supp) specifically prohibits me from considering “misconduct” when making a spousal support award: s.15.2(5). On the rare and unusual facts before me, the Mother is entitled to a remedy in tort that properly accounts for the extreme breach of trust occasioned by the Father’s violence, and that brings some degree of personal accountability to his conduct.

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Canada’s longest trial again in the news — Chapter III

“The petitioners are the defendants in the longest running judicial saga in Quebec legal history. A trial that had occupied no less than eight years was aborted because of the trial judge’s illness and his inability to resume its conduct. At that stage, the plaintiffs’ evidence was complete and the petitioners had completed roughly one-half of their evidence.”

So begins Quebec Court of Appeal Justice Alan Hilton in a recent seven-page ruling that dismissed a motion seeking leave to appeal a judgment relating to the duration of the trial. The petitioners, Elliot C. Wightman et Al, sought to extend the 120-day limit to present evidence during the trial.

In a ruling worth reading, if only because it reveals the Court’s views on case management, in English no less,  Judge Hilton points out that that “ultimately, however, it belongs to the court concerned to determine, at the outset, how much of the court’s time the parties will be provided to complete their case, whatever request the parties have made, and however complex or important that case may be.”

He adds: “This is an essential feature of case management, without which administrative chaos would ensue to the detriment of all concerned, and in particular to other litigants who are waiting in line to have their own cases heard. The Superior Court is not the private reserve of anyone to use as they wish, but a public institution to which access must be available to all on an equal basis.”

For a comprehensive examination of the stakes at the trial of a scandal that preceded Enron et al, here is what I wrote:

Canada’s longest trial again in the news

Nearly 15 months after the Quebec Court of Appeal griped about the legal war of attrition that has lasted more than a decade in the case against a former accounting giant and its partners over the infamous collapse of Montreal real-estate firm Castor Holdings Inc., the highest court of the province recently dismissed yet another appeal.

The defendants sought to appeal an interlocutory judgment that dismissed their motion to obtain an additional $17-million in payment bonds from the respondents, and declare them to be jointly and severally liable of costs. Judge Lise Côté of the Quebec Court of Appeal upheld the lower court ruling.

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Security company held responsible for employee’s tort

The world’s fifth-largest purveyor of armored car and security guard services was ordered to pay $782,000 to an insurance company after Quebec Superior Court held that it was liable for tort committed by one of its employees who set fire to a vacant YMCA building in downtown Montreal.

“The suit essentially rests on the delicate and controversial question surrounding the liability of the principal for the intentional fault of its employee,” noted Justice Chantal Masse in Axa Assurances inc. c. Groupe de sécurité Garda inc. Continue reading “Security company held responsible for employee’s tort”