Estabrooks Class Action Certified, City of Saint John to Appeal

by John McKiggan

In a decision released February 8, 2017 SJC-533-2013 Hayes v. The City of Saint John Decision of Justice Grant Feb 9, 17 Justice Grant of the New Brunswick Court of Queens Bench certified the class action filed by Bobby Hayes on behalf of hundreds of survivors of sexual abuse by former Saint John police officer, Kenneth Estabrooks.

Kenneth Estabrooks’ history of abuse

Kenneth Estabrooks worked as a police officer for the City of Saint John for several decades. From 1950 to 1975 the plaintiff’s allege that Estabrooks used his authority as a police officer to abuse 100’s of children. In 1975, he was first confronted with allegations of sexual abuse of children. Estabrooks signed a confession admitting to the abuse.

What steps did the City take when it learned of Estabrooks sexual abuse?

Did it lay criminal charges against Estabrooks? No!

Did the City fire Estabrooks? No!

Did the City even discipline Estabrooks for his criminal actions? No!

Instead, the city transferred Estabrooks to the city works department so that he would have enough years of employment to be able to collect his pension!

Estabrooks remained employed with the City of Saint John, and continued to abuse children, until he retired in 1983.

In 1997, more victims of Estabrooks’ abuse came forward. A criminal investigation was launched, and he was finally convicted of sexual assault. The court sentenced him to six years in prison. Estabrooks died in 2005.

Since Estabrooks’ death, more people have come forward with claims of abuse. A private investigator hired by the City of Saint John estimates as many as 265 people may have been abused by Estabrooks.

Court Certifies Class Action

On February 8, 2017 Justice Grant certified the survivors class action,allowing the claim to proceed as a group to a common issues trial.

Justice Grant determined that there we grounds capable of being certified:

[56] In summary I find that the pleadings disclose three causes of action,
breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and vicarious liability and that it is not plain
and obvious that the plaintiff cannot succeed in any of them.

He went on to state:

[61] With respect to the common issues of negligence, breach of fiduciary
duty, vicarious liability and punitive damages, all are inseparable from the
allegation that class members were sexually abused. Similarly in regard to the
issue of aggregate damages I find that there is a rational relationship to the
proposed Class in that the authority for seeking aggregate damages emanates
from section 31 of the Act. Moreover, the historical nature of the claims in this
case, while not being dispositive of the issue of whether or not aggregate
damages are appropriate in this case, creates, in my view, a rational relationship
between it and the proposed Class in that it is an issue that is at least worthy of
consideration.
[62] I therefore find that there is a rational relationship between the proposed
Class and the asserted common issues.

City Decides to Appeal

Today the City of Saint John has filed it’s Notice for Leave to Appeal. The City has decided to ask for permission to appeal Justice Grant’s decision.

What Happens Next?

The Court of Appeal will hear the leave motion on May 26, 2017. At that time, the Court of Appeal will decide whether to grant the City leave (permission) to appeal. If the Court does not grant leave to appeal, the class action will proceed to trial.

If the Court grants leave to appeal a further date will be scheduled to hear arguments on the appeal itself.

If the City’s appeal is successful, that would be the end of the class action and all of Estabrooks survivors will have to sue the City individually if they want to receive accountability or compensation.

If the City’s appeal is denied then the class action will proceed to trial.

Want more information?

If you want more information about the class action you can contact John McKiggan Q.C. through this blog or by calling us toll free at

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