A Surrey man who was bitten multiple times by a police service dog when Surrey Mounties arrested him on a warrant has been awarded $63,750 in damages by a B.C. Supreme Court judge in Vancouver.
This was a far cry from the $5,720,000 Jean-Claude Emond sought in damages.
Emond sued the City of Surrey, the Queen, the federal and provincial governments, more than 10 constables and “other unidentified members of the Surrey Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Correctional Service staff of the Surrey Pre-Trial Services Centre and staff of the Sheriff Services Jail & Escorts of Surrey.”
Justice Amy Francis noted in her July 8 reasons for judgment that after Emond was bitten and arrested on May 4, 2005 he was taken to Surrey Memorial Hospital and underwent surgery before being taken to Surrey Pre-Trial Services Centre, where he was held for 18 hours before being released.
He was wanted on a charge of assault, and assault with a weapon, when he was arrested.
His claim against the City of Surrey and some of the defendants was eventually dismissed but a civil trial proceeded against the federal Crown, provincial Crown and six police officers, alleging unlawful arrest, false imprisonment, breach of his Charter rights, assault and battery, negligence, intimidation, and intentional infliction of nervous shock.
“His claim was narrowed prior to and over the course of trial, and many of the claims, including his Charter claims, were abandoned,” Francis noted.
Emond was 45 at the time of his arrest and 61 when the trial was heard. The court heard he has been a gold prospector for most of his life, working in the Yukon.
“Mr. Emond says he sustained 17 dog bites,” the judge noted. “Whether or not this precise number is correct, it is unquestionable that Mr. Emond was seriously bitten in many parts of his body by Jeck in the course of the incident.”
Emond claimed the arresting officers let the PSD (Police Service Dog) continue to bite him after he was under their control but they denied this. The judge found the “only probable sequence of events” is that the dog continued to bite him after he was handcuffed.
“The arresting officers described the incident as taking place in near total darkness, in a dynamic and confusing manner. It is not surprising that they would not have been immediately aware that the PSD was continuing to attack Mr. Emond after the handcuffs had been placed on his wrists,” Francis noted. She found one constable’s failure to control the dog after Emond was under police control to be negligent but Emond had not established the others were negligent.
“I cannot find on the evidence that any of the named officers are guilty of dishonesty, gross negligence, or malicious or wilful misconduct. There has been simply no evidence tendered that would support such a conclusion,” the judge found. She also found Emond himself should bear 25 per cent of the blame for his injuries for running away from the police rather than surrendering when he was told he was under arrest.
Francis found the Federal Crown vicariously liable for the police.
Emond had sought $2,550,000 in general damages – $150,000 per dog bite multiplied by 17 bites – and $3,170,000 in loss of income-earning capacity.
“I find that the federal Crown is liable to Mr. Emond in negligence,” the judge concluded. “Mr. Emond is entitled to non-pecuniary damages in the amount of $85,000. Because I have found him to be contributorily negligent, I am reducing his award by 25 per cent, and I award him $63,750 in non-pecuniary damages.”