Tort Tuesday: The knife-in-your-back lawsuit

A hunting knife is pictured in this stock photo by Getty Images.

Back pain afflicts everyone from time to time, but a Northwest Territories man suffered from a unique form. You see he walked around with a knife in his back for three years.

In 2010, Billy McNeely was repeatedly stabbed with a knife that remained lodged in his back. Hospital staff somehow failed to notice the blade in McNeely’s back, despite several visits to the hospital over that period.

The knife was finally removed in 2013.

It seems strange that doctors and nurses would fail to notice a three-inch blade in somebody’s back. That’s why McNeely is suing the Stanton Territorial Hospital, the Sahtu Health Authority, and a team of doctors for negligence. He’s asking for more than $110,000 in damages for loss of income and quality of life.

See: What is negligence?

In response to McNeely’s claim, doctors said that the damages are “excessive” and “exaggerated.”

Guess it’s not considered “excessive“ having a knife blade inside your body, possibly near vital organs.

Sexual harassment lawsuit against ex-Ontario premier

Another day yields another lawsuit against a politician.

This time the lucky candidate is David Peterson, the former premier of Ontario, and TO2015 chair, who is being sued for sexual harassment. A woman, who worked as a manager at the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games, alleges Peterson made sexually tinged remarks, gave her unwanted hugs and humiliated her in public.

Ximena Morris is also suing the Pan and Parapan Am organizing committee, the Canadian Olympic Committee, and three members of the TO2015 executive team. Allegedly, when Morris complained to senior officials and human resources about Peterson’s unwanted advances, they told her to ignore his conduct and then demoted her. Morris claims she went from managing about 1000 employees to being in a clerical position.

Peterson is denying the accusations. TO2015 said they haven’t even been served with Morris’ lawsuit yet, and even if they had, the way the claimant alleges the complaints were handled is incorrect.

It will be interesting to hear how things play out during this lawsuit.

Old vicarious liability decision overturned

Possession or no possession — that is the question! An Ontario appeal court recently overturned an old decision on vicarious liability.

The tort of vicarious liability means that one party is responsible for the actions of a subordinate, such as in an employer-employee situation. It used to be the law, based on the 1952 case of Newman v. Terdik. In the decision, the owner of a car (Terdik) was not deemed liable when one of his employees hit the complainant (Newman) with his vehicle, because Terdik had given strict instructions not to use the car on the highway where Newman was hit. 

In Fernandes v. Araujo, a decision released last week, the appeal court judge said this reasoning was wrong, as it does not fall in line with the reasoning of similar cases. Fernandes was seriously injured while riding on an ATV driven by Araujo, who was told by her father that she could only use the vehicle on the farm. Araujo was outside the farm grounds when the ATV rolled over, hurting Fernandes.

Justice Robert J. Sharpe ruled possession cannot be turned on and off as in Newman. If Araujo was in possession and was allowed to operate the vehicle, then she had permission from her father to use that vehicle regardless of restrictions, meaning the owner is responsible.

This decision was quite the blow for Allstate Insurance, who sought to overturn the original ruling of liability against the owners. Instead they managed to change the law to the detriment of car insurance companies in Ontario.
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