Focus On

PRISON ADMINISTRATION - Conditions and treatment

Friday, June 29, 2018 @ 8:55 AM  

Lexis Advance® Quicklaw®
Appeal by the defendant, the federal Crown, from partial summary judgment granted in favour of the plaintiffs. The primary plaintiff and three individual defendants were inmates at a maximum security institution. An inmate strike resulted in limited time outside of cells. Security cameras covered the range outside of cells, but not the cells themselves. The cells were equipped with alarms, but inmates, including the plaintiff, had repeatedly activated their alarms during the strike to show displeasure. During the brief period in which inmates left their cells within the activity range, the plaintiff suffered severe injuries from an assault perpetrated by three inmates within his cell. The assault was not captured on camera, and the plaintiff's cell alarm had not been reset from its prior use. The plaintiff alleged the Crown was negligent and breached a statutory duty of care by failing to reasonably ensure his safety. The Crown sought summary judgment dismissing the action on the basis there was no genuine issue for trial. The motion judge granted summary judgment in favour of the plaintiff on the issue of liability and ordered the issue of damages to proceed to trial. The Crown appealed.

HELD: Appeal allowed. The motion judge greatly exceeded his authority in granting summary judgment in favour of the plaintiff. The evidentiary record was insufficient to determine whether any duty of care had been breached. In particular, there was insufficient evidence regarding the appropriateness of the plaintiff's institutional placement, the reason the cell door remained open during range activities, the reason the plaintiff's cell alarm was not reset, the privacy rationale for limiting surveillance camera coverage, and the reason for officials' delay in responding to the assault. The finding that a trial was not required on the issue of liability could not be sustained. There was no basis to bifurcate the liability issue from damages. The order granting summary judgment was set aside.

Fontenelle v. Canada (Attorney General), [2018] O.J. No. 2703, Ontario Court of Appeal, P.D. Lauwers, M.L. Benotto and I.V.B. Nordheimer JJ.A., May 23, 2018. Digest No. TLD-June252018010