While Gerald Stanley may have been acquitted of criminal charges for killing Colten Boushie, a civil lawsuit filed by Boushie’s mother could prove more difficult to shake.
Boushie’s mother, Debbie Baptiste, filed the suit this week at Saskatoon Court of Queen’s Bench. A second lawsuit was also filed against the RCMP on behalf of Baptiste and her two surviving sons.
Richard Shekter, a prominent civil litigator based in Toronto, discussed both lawsuits Friday on Gormley.
He said the lawsuit against Stanley would see a judge or jury asked to once again determine what happened the day Boushie died. But this time, rather than looking to meet the criminal law standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, they’d be using the lower threshold of proving liability based on “a balance of probabilities.”
“Where a 51 per cent probability of the event occurring through the negligence or intentional act of someone exists, then you can have civil liability,” he said.
The lawsuit seeks $30,000 in damages to be paid directly to Baptiste, $20,000 in funeral expenses, $60,000 in grief counselling, $60,000 in out-of-pocket expenses, $100,000 in lost employment earnings for Baptiste, and $200,000 in “aggravated, exemplary and punitive damages to be proven at trial.”
In his criminal trial, Stanely relied on a defence that the pistol he used to try and scare off intruders on his property discharged accidentally, leading to Boushie getting shot in the head.
Shekter said that might not be enough in a civil case.
“If (Stanley) was negligent in running with a gun towards a car and put himself in a position where a firearm went off, that degree of negligence may be sufficient, if the jury finds that’s what happened.”
Shekter said the Boushie family’s case against the RCMP would likely be harder to prove.
The suit alleges that RCMP officers caused psychological harm to Baptiste and her sons when they conducted what the lawsuit alleges was an illegal search of Baptiste’s home after Boushie was shot.
The lawsuit against the RCMP members is calling for Baptiste to be paid $200,000 in general damages, $100,000 for pecuniary losses, $50,000 in special damages, and $200,000 in punitive damages.
It also seeks $100,000 in general damages for Jace Boushie, along with $100,000 in pecuniary losses, $50,000 in special damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.
Shekter said he could foresee at least one major difficulty for the lawyers trying to make the case.
“How on earth can a jury or a judge decide that the damages from the loss of the son weren’t the real reason for the depression and anxiety?”
None of the claims against either Stanley or the RCMP has been tested in court. Both parties remain within the 30-day period to submit statements of defence in the suits against them.
No court dates have been set.
—With files from 650 CKOM’s Chris Vandenbreekel