• Ryan Keeney

Can you sue for assault in Ontario?


The short answer is yes.

Now for the long answer:

When you sue someone for hitting, pushing, punching, kicking, or grabbing you (or some similar act) the correct term in civil court is battery.

There are lot of myths about battery. For example, if you think you have to be really injured to justify a lawsuit, you'd be wrong.

According to Klar's "Tort Law" (5th Edition): "The tort [of battery] does not require that the contact be physically harmful to its recipient, or cause any personal injury [1]. To be actionable, it must be committed either intentionally or negligently". The reference text also goes on to say, "the Defendant need not have intended to harm or injure the Plaintiff [2].

The reason for the relatively low requirements described above is because, "the fundamental principle, plain and incontestable, is that every person's body is inviolate. It has long been established that any touching of another person, however slight, may amount to a battery" [3]. This was quoted with approval in the Supreme Court decision of Sansalone v. Wawanesa Mutual Insurance Co. (2000), 50 C.C.L.T. (2d) 1 (S.C.C.).

The extent of the injury will; however, influence what type of Court you'll be filing your case in. If your pain & suffering, lost wages and other damages can be reasonably considered to be worth less than $25,000, then you'll be filing the Small Claims Court. On the other hand, if you've been so severely assaulted / battered that you've missed several months of work, or you were sexually assaulted, or you're paralyzed, experienced neurological damage or some other serious impact, then you may want to consider filing your case in the Superior Court of Justice.

If the perpetrator of the assault has been charged by the police, then you may want to consider waiting for the criminal court case to be completed before you launch any potential civil claim. There are many good reasons why patience is rewarded:

1) The criminal justice system may find your attacker guilty, and you will be able to use that finding of guilt to support the strength of your civil claim.

2) You might receive restitution in the criminal process and you will be able to make a better decision about how much money (if any) to attempt to collect through the civil courts

3) Suing too quickly might give a clever criminal defence lawyer ammunition in criminal court. Some defence lawyers have been known to make the argument that the victim is a biased witness in criminal court because they filed a civil claim and stand to gain money from the accused person being found guilty.

Don't wait too long though, because Ontario has a two-year limitation period on suing someone for assault, unless you are suing for a sexual assault. There is no limitation period for to sue someone for a sexual assault.

If you'd like to file a civil claim due to an assault or battery that you experienced, feel free to book a free consultation with us.

REFERENCES

[1] (Cf. Cutler v. Smith (1977), 25 N.S.R. (2d) 5, 36 A.P.R. 5 (T.D.))

[2] Wilson v Pringle, [1986] 2 All E.R. 440 at p. 445 (C.A.))

[3] Collins v. Wilcock, [1984] 1 W.L.R. 1172 at 1177 (Q.B.D.)

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