Top court awards trainee $100K for assault by trainer

Manager sued her for defamation, GM for firing him

The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld the summary dismissal of an employee accused of raping an attendee at his training seminar.

As well, the court has ordered the former employee to pay the complainant $100,000 in damages.

Wayne Strong was plant manager at General Motors’ trim plant in Windsor, Ont. In 1992, he ran a training session in Scarborough for other GM workers. One of the attendees was a woman identified in the court judgment as M.M.P., an employee at GM’s head office in Oshawa.

M.M.P. claimed that Strong invited her to his room at the conference hotel, where he drugged and raped her. Acting on the M.M.P.’s complaint, GM summarily dismissed Strong for cause.

Denying all allegations, Strong sued GM for wrongful dismissal and M.M.P., separately, for defamation.

The trial judge, Justice B.T. Granger, found that Strong was not credible, and he accepted evidence from other female GM employees that Strong sexually harassed them, and that he boasted of many conquests of other female employees.

Justice Granger dismissed both of Strong’s lawsuits, finding that Strong sexually assaulted M.M.P. but did not drug her.

Justice Granger also dismissed the woman’s counterclaim, finding that it was nine years old and thus outside the limitation period (four years for sexual assault complaints).

He added that, had the woman succeeded, he would have awarded her $100,000 in damages.

However, Justice Granger ordered Strong to pay the woman’s legal costs of $228,780.

Strong appealed, insisting that M.M.P. accused him unjustly. As well, he argued that, as the lawsuits were heard together and the same lawyer was representing M.M.P. and G.M., the employer would have indemnified M.M.P. for her costs. Therefore, Strong argued, she was not entitled to the costs award.

Examining the trial record, the Court of Appeal has held that Justice Granger made “no palpable and overriding error in his assessment of the evidence.” He was entitled to accept M.M.P.’s evidence over Strong’s, the appeal court has ruled.

However, Justice Granger erred in dismissing M.M.P.’s counterclaim without considering its merits. Strong did not plead the limitations period (that is, he did not give notice that it was part of his defence.)

Also, the court has ruled, considering that Strong’s and M.M.P.’s claims were mirror images of one another, it was anomalous to say that Strong’s case was not time-barred by Ontario’s Limitations Act, but that M.M.P.’s claim for damages was out of time by virtue of the very same legislation.

For more information:

Strong v. M.M.P., Ontario Court of Appeal docket C28057, Aug. 1/00.

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