Friday, February 24, 2017

Damages Claims for Assault by Parents and Caregivers Upon Children


A recent parliamentary bill in Ontario, the "Sexual Violence and Harassment Action Plan Act" brought changes to Ontario's Limitations Act, and removed virtually all time limits on bringing court claims arising from sexual assault, or other related offences.

But the law will also have a major impact on people who were assaulted or abused non-sexually as children.

There is now no time limit under the Limitations Act to bring a claim for damages arising from any assault, incluing assault of a non-sexual nature, if at the time of the events:
  1. the person who was assaulted was a minor
  2. the person who committed the assault was in an intimate relationship with the victim
  3. the person who was assaulted was financially, emotionally, physically or otherwise dependent on the person who committed the assault
The Limitations Act also states, for further clarity, that the new extensions on this limitation period is extended to other claims related to the assault, such as "negligence, breach of fiduciary duty or any other duty, or for vicarious liability."

For people who experienced assault(s) as children, this change may allow for claims to also be advanced against a parent or other responsible adult who did not participate in the assault, but had a legal duty to protect the child. 

The Ontario Courts have already found, for instance in the case of RA1 & RA2 v JM et al (Superior Court, 2013) that a so-called "bystander parent" can be liable for failing to protect a child. 

This change in Ontario Law is retroactive. 

It will have large implications for adults who were the victims of assaults or abuse as children, whether the assaults were sexual or not.
- Paul Adam, Toronto

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