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New Sexual Abuse Compensation Claim Decision from British Columbia

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The Supreme Court of British Columbia just released a decision assessing damages for W.B., a victim of sexual abuse by his adopted father J.B.

W.B. was sexually abused by foster siblings when he was 8 years old. When he was 10 he was placed for adoption in the B household where he engaged in sexual relations with his adoptive siblings. When his “adopted” father J.B. learned of the sexual contact, he began to sexually abuse W.B. for more than a year.

W.B. became addicted to drugs and alcohol, and was convicted of armed robbery. The psychologist who testified on W.B.’s behalf stated:

…this man suffered significant emotional, physical and sexual abuse as a child while in care. It has left a profound mark on him. It has limited his ability to form stable interpersonal relationships. It has limited his ability to form friendships. He is left in a situation where he has great difficulty trusting other individuals. He suffers from emotional instability with periods of depression and anxiety. This, in my opinion, is directly related to the abuse and neglect that he suffered as a child. He has strength of character to the extent that he has been able to establish himself in a career and also to be in a stable relationship and to function with a family despite the very real deficits that are present.

It is my opinion he is at risk for further emotional problems in the future. There is a relative emotional instability present that in a stable supportive environment he can deal with. However, should that environment change to any great extent, I believe he would be very vulnerable to developing a Major Depression, which would make it very difficult for him to function in society at the level he currently does. I believe he may benefit from counselling, but only to a limited extent. I believe he would have difficulty in trusting a counsellor and opening up and discussing the very real difficulties he has experience in life. He has in the past been able to discuss this to a certain extent with the psychologist he saw before and he may well be able to do so again in the future . . .

The court was concerned with distinguishing between the effects of the prior abuse and referred to the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Blackwater v. Plint, [2005] 3 S.C.R. 3, 48 B.C.L.R. (4th) 1 where McLachlin C.J. stated:

Untangling the different sources of damage and loss may be nigh impossible. Yet the law requires that it be done, since at law a plaintiff is entitled only to be compensated for loss caused by the actionable wrong. It is the “essential purpose and most basic principle of tort law” that the plaintiff be placed in the position he or she would have been in had the tort not been committed…

J.B.’s non-pecuniary (emotional pain and suffering) damages were assessed at $60,000.00. The court also awarded him two years of lost income, $50,000.00 for the time he spent in jail.

The full decision is reported at W.B. v. J.B., [2007] B.C.J. No. 1564.

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