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CIVIL PROCEDURE - Trials - Conduct of - Giving reasons for judgment

Wednesday, October 28, 2020 @ 7:31 AM  

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Appeal by the Crown from trial judgment finding the Crown liable for injuries suffered by the respondent, a prison inmate. The respondent was severely beaten by other inmates in his wing. The appellant was a vulnerable inmate because his father was a retired police officer. The trial judge found the standard of care required that the other inmates be kept separate from the respondent and not be housed together, and that staff had to consult with inmates about potential incompatibilities before the appellant was placed into protective custody in this wing. The trial judge was satisfied that the gang assault would not have occurred had staff separated the inmates and that but for the breach of duty, the inmates would not have been together and could not have acted in concert. The trial judge further found that had the officers made any inquiries of the other inmates prior to placing the respondent there, the assault would not have occurred.

HELD: Appeal allowed. New trial ordered. The reasons for decision were insufficient to permit meaningful appellate review. The trial judge’s reasons were mostly conclusory. The reasons could be read as focusing on institution-level liability, contrary to the legal test and could also be read as the trial judge recognizing the legal necessity of finding negligence on the part of individual employees despite his failure to identify them by name or their negligent actions by description. Read as a whole, the trial judge’s reasons did not adequately justify the result he reached. The trial judge did not clearly and consistently identify the key issues, find the relevant facts, assess credibility and reliability, or set out the chains of reasoning applicable to each issue free of gaps and assumptions.

Bruno v. Dacosta, [2020] O.J. No. 4073, Ontario Court of Appeal, P.D. Lauwers, D.M. Brown and I.V.B. Nordheimer JJ.A., September 23, 2020. Digest No. TLD-October262020006