RCMP decision overturned

Court of Appeal rules lower court didn’t have jurisdiction to hear case in which it awarded more than $500,000 in damages to former RCMP jail guard and his wife

The Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal has overturned a lower court’s decision that ordered the RCMP to pay one of its former jail guards, and his wife, more than $500,000.

The lower court’s decision, as reported on page 3278 of the Aug. 4, 2004, issue of Canadian Employment Law Today, was interesting for a number of reasons, not least of which was the fact it ordered higher damages because of the way the RCMP defended itself and that Rees’ wife, who was not employed by the RCMP, was also awarded $20,000 for her pain and suffering. (To read the Aug. 4, 2004, article click on the “related articles” link below.)

The RCMP appealed the decision, and the Court of Appeal ruled in its favour. It said the lower court judge erred in determining it had jurisdiction to hear the claim. It said the claim must be adjudicated by the province’s workers’ compensation authority in accordance with the Government Employees Compensation Act, which nullified the rest of the lower court’s decision. But it went on to address the other issues:

•It said the lower court made an error in admitting an affidavit from Bruce Rees while denying the RCMP the right to cross-examine him.

•It sent the claim for damages by Rees’ wife back to the lower court to determine the validity of her claim.

•It said the aggravated damages — awarded by the lower court because of the way the RCMP vigorously defended itself — were not appropriate.

“The decision to defend an action cannot per se amount to ‘high-handed’ or ‘oppressive’ or ‘outrageous and malicious’ conduct warranting the award of aggravated damages,” the Court of Appeal said. “Every party has a right to determine its own position and to defend that position. No award of aggravated damages can properly flow from that.”

For more information see:

Rees v. Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 2005 CarswellNfld 83, 2005 NLCA 15 (N.L. C.A.)

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