Ontario Civil


Punitive damages

Plaintiff awarded $50,000 in punitive damages for sexual assault by clergy member

Defendant was male member of clergy. Plaintiff’s parents were religious and held defendant in extremely high regard. Defendant had baptized plaintiff, and plaintiff’s parents even used defendant’s first name as plaintiff’s middle name. Plaintiff’s family frequently had out-of-church visits with defendant. Plaintiff was required to share bed with defendant at time of plaintiff’s grandfather’s funeral when plaintiff was 13 years old around 1976. Plaintiff woke in morning to find defendant with arm around him and pressing erection against him. During period when plaintiff stayed with defendant for couple of weeks, defendant provided plaintiff with alcohol and had plaintiff rub lotion on defendant’s back. Incident progressed to plaintiff and defendant touching each other’s penis until plaintiff became too uncomfortable. Defendant initiated sexual touching and mutual masturbation several times during remainder of plaintiff’s visit, including in shower. Next summer, plaintiff again had to stay with defendant, and parties shared bed for several nights until plaintiff chose to sleep on couch. In January 2008, defendant was convicted of sexually assaulting plaintiff and 12 other boys. Plaintiff brought action against defendant for damages for sexual assault. Action allowed. Plaintiff was awarded $50,000 for punitive damages. Sexual abuse of child, by its very nature, involved highly reprehensible misconduct that departed to marked degree from ordinary standards of decent behaviour. Defendant failed to provide any evidence to rebut prima facie proof offered by his criminal conviction. This suggested defendant delayed plaintiff’s access to relief without good reason. Despite defendant’s criminal conviction, punitive damages award was necessary to achieve societal objectives of retribution, deterrence, and denunciation. Defendant’s conduct was significantly blameworthy. Abuse occurred during time periods when defendant planned to be alone with plaintiff and was therefore almost certainly planned and deliberate. Abuse occurred over number of years. Defendant must have known he was violating deeply personal interest. Abuse had taken place while plaintiff had been exceedingly vulnerable under defendant’s supervision.

Lucas v. Prince (Nov. 30, 2015, Ont. S.C.J., Fitzpatrick J., 3807/07) 263 A.C.W.S. (3d) 653.

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