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TYPES OF DAMAGES - Exemplary or punitive damages - Aggravated damages

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 @ 9:58 AM  

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Appeal by the plaintiff, Marson, from an award of damages and costs payable by the defendants, the Province and Grimes. The plaintiff completed a corrections and policing program. Grimes was a provincial firearms officer assigned to review the plaintiff's application for a firearms licence. During subsequent meetings related to the licence review, Grimes spread slanderous lies about the plaintiff, suggesting she was involved in an armed robbery. The comments by Grimes resulted in interruption and delay of the plaintiff's completion of the corrections and policing program. She was denied a firearms licence and suspended from an essential aspect of her program. Although her status was eventually clarified, the licence was granted and the plaintiff completed the program, the allegations by Grimes had a profound impact on her mental health. The plaintiff sued Grimes and the Province. An initial plea of a defence of justification was withdrawn shortly prior to trial. The trial judge characterized the actions by Grimes as offensive and inexplicable. The plaintiff was awarded general damages of $35,000, aggravated damages of $15,000, special damages of $2,640, prejudgment interest of $3,650, plus costs of $15,000. The plaintiff appealed. She sought additional damages for breach of privacy and punitive damages, separate damages payable by the Province, an increase in aggravated damages, and an increase in costs.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The record supported the trial judge's findings, conclusions, and clear methodical approach. The judge cited cases in support of her correct identification of the applicable range of general damages. She was alive to the potential to award damages for breach of privacy or intrusion upon seclusion, and properly found it would have resulted in double recovery. The award of aggravated damages was supported by the evidence, and sufficiently reflected the aggravating aspects of Grimes's conduct. The decision made it clear that factors normally relevant to punitive damages were included in determining the aggravated damages award. There was basis for a separate award against the Province. The award of costs adequately reflected that an otherwise straightforward damages claim required five days of trial, following which the plaintiff's total recovery was limited to $52,640 plus interest. The timing of the withdrawal of the justification defence was sufficiently accounted for in the damages award. No basis for appellate interference with the costs award was established.

Doucette v. Nova Scotia, [2017] N.S.J. No. 44, Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, E. Van den Eynden, J.W.S. Saunders and J.E. Scanlan JJ.A., February 9, 2017. Digest No. 3640-006