In a recent interview with Law Times, Gillian Hnatiw discusses
how the recent case, Melvin v. Ontario, provides an
important lesson for lawyers who have considered taking on a case
against the Crown. This case demonstrates the challenges that
lawyers face in proving liability for inmate incidents, and more
specifically, the challenges involved in litigating a
This case stemmed from an incident in 1997 when two inmates
assaulted another inmate (Melvin) at the district jail in Thunder
Bay, Ontario. The injured inmate suffered a serious head injury and
as a result underwent a craniotomy (a procedure involving removing
part of the bone from the skull to expose the brain). An action
against the two defendants began in 2003.
For starters, successfully proving that prison officials
breached their duty of care and are liable for injuries can be
challenging. Further, given the nature of their situation,
imprisoned defendants may be unable to afford to pay for legal
representation. In order to prove that the Crown was liable, it
must be shown that the province failed to behave reasonably in its
duty to look after those in its care.
The lawyers were also able to reveal that one of the defendants
was a known dangerous offender. Gillian says this kind of
information can be key in proving that the Crown has failed in its
duty of care. "You're putting a vulnerable person in a
cage with someone who's known to be extremely violent. It's
a perfect recipe for an assault of this nature," she says.
Gillian expresses that the Crown has a significant duty to
anticipate trouble and intervene on inmates' behalf.
"Prison is a unique environment because there's no way of
knowing your cellmate's history or doing anything about
In Gillian's view, this case provides an important lesson
for lawyers considering taking on a case against the Crown.
"We learn to not be intimidated just because we're looking
at naming the correctional services as a defender... the resource
limitations don't relieve the Crown of its duty of care to the
inmates in its custody."
It's not often that our little blog intersects with such titanic struggles as the U.S. presidential race – and by using the term "titanic" I certainly don't mean to suggest that anything disastrous is in the future.
J.J. v. C.C., is an interesting case in which the court held that an automotive garage owes a duty to minor children to secure the vehicles on the premises by locking the cars and safely storing the car keys...
In Irwin v. Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, 2015 ABCA 396, the Alberta Court of Appeal found that the "ABVMA" failed to afford procedural fairness to a veterinarian undergoing an incapacity assessment.
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