Canada: A Bankrupt Can't Escape A Judgment For Sexual Assault

Last Updated: June 9 2014
Article by Elizabeth K.P. Grace and Anna Matas

This blog was originally published on Slaw.

Under most circumstances, an order of discharge releases a bankrupt person from all debts. There are, however, exemptions that have been legislated to ensure that a bankrupt party does not escape a debt arising from certain morally blameworthy actions. For example, an order of discharge does not release a bankrupt person from any debt arising from an award of damages by a court in civil proceedings stemming from "bodily harm intentionally inflicted, or sexual assault": Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act, RSC 1985, c B-3 (the "BIA"), section 178(1)(a.1)(i).

The case law is clear these exceptions are based on social policy considerations which prioritize a victim's right to obtain compensation over a bankrupt's right to be free of debts following discharge. Parliament has made a policy decision that a bankrupt should not be allowed to raise the shield of his or her general discharge against judgment creditors who hold judgments grounded on reprehensible conduct: Simone v. Daley (1999), 43 O.R. (3d) 511 (ONCA).

The Ontario Court of Appeal recently weighed in on the "bodily harm intentionally inflicted" portion of section 178(1)(a.1)(i) in Dickerson v. 1610396 Ontario Inc. (2013 ONCA 653). It held section 178(1)(a.1)(i) applies where there is direct proof of intentional infliction of harm or where such intent can be reasonably inferred on the facts. In Dickerson, the defendant ran up to the plaintiff and punched him in the head with a closed fist, hard enough to cause the plaintiff to lose consciousness and fall to the ground. The plaintiff suffered a significant brain injury resulting in permanent disability. A jury awarded over a million dollars in damages to the plaintiff.

As a result of the judgment, the defendant declared bankruptcy, which had the effect of automatically staying the enforcement of the million dollar judgment against him. The plaintiff brought a motion to lift the stay and for declarations that the stay did not operate with respect to enforcement of judgment, that the judgment was an award of damages for bodily harm intentionally inflicted pursuant to section 178(1)(a.1) of the BIA, and that the judgment survived bankruptcy and was not a debt released by order of discharge.

A judge of the Ontario Superior Court ruled that, despite the jury finding that the defendant "deliberately punched the plaintiff in the head", the defendant did not "set out to intentionally injure" the plaintiff. The judge dismissed the motion to lift the stay, thereby frustrating the plaintiff's attempts to collect the million dollar damages award.

The Ontario Court of Appeal, however, overturned this decision. It did so on the basis that the plaintiff was required only to demonstrate "bodily harm intentionally inflicted". The plaintiff in Dickerson was not required to prove the circumstances in which the bodily harm he sustained met a certain level of offensiveness to social mores to justify withholding the protections of bankruptcy. He was merely required to prove the harmful act was done with specific intent to injure.

Courts have held there was a specific intent to injury in cases where a bankrupt intentionally drove his car into his daughter and her boyfriend: Sangha, Re, 2004 BCSC 799; where a bankrupt husband assaulted his wife: Winfield v. Lomas, 2008 BCSC 1636; and where a bankrupt party struck another person in the head with a baseball bat at a New Year's Eve party: Matthew v. Tattrie, 2009 BCSC 263. A criminal conviction is not required to demonstrate that the harmful act was done with the specific intent to injure.

However, the specific intent to injure has been found lacking in cases where intentional acts have unexpected consequences, such as psychological injuries resulting in physical symptoms. For example, a claim for malicious prosecution against a bankrupt which caused the judgment creditor mental suffering that manifested in physical symptoms was held not fall within section 178(1)(a.1)(i) because "the action giving rise to the harm must have had the harm itself as its goal": Floros v. Mueller, 2003 SKQB 513. Similarly, in a defamation case, the victim suffered dizziness and vertigo as a result of the defamation. However, the court found that the bankrupt had not intentionally inflicted bodily harm on the victim: Marshall, Re, 2001 CanLII 28287 (ON SC).

Importantly, the caveat that damages must be "intentionally inflicted" does not apply to sexual assault. Section 178(1)(a.1) clearly and unambiguously exempts judgments based on "sexual assault" from the bankrupt's order of discharge. This is critical, as failing to protect all damages arising from a sexual assault, whether intentionally inflicted or otherwise, would run counter to the social policy underlying section 178(1)(a.1).

Although this issue has not yet received direct judicial attention, in a recent case in British Columbia, a judge refused to stay proceedings based on a claim that the plaintiff was sexually assaulted and surreptitiously videotaped by her step-father when she was 18. The step-father pleaded guilty to criminal charges of sexual assault and then filed for bankruptcy. The judge in that case lifted the stay of proceedings on the basis that, regardless of whether the claim based on videotaping would survive the bankruptcy, it was connected to the sexual assault claim and, "it is clear that the claim for sexual assault would, under section 178(1) [of the BIA] survive a discharge of bankruptcy": Lundahl v. Poilievre, 2013 BCSC 1628.

One final practical note: the proper procedure to recover a debt that is not released by an order of discharge is for the judgment creditor (i.e., the successful plaintiff) to bring an action in the ordinary civil courts (as opposed to Bankruptcy courts). While this may add a level of expense and effort for plaintiffs who have been successful in their civil claims based on sexual assault, an avenue for recovery is available through our courts.

www.lerners.ca

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Elizabeth K.P. Grace
Anna Matas
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions