'He shattered her': B.C. court awards woman $200K in damages as compensation for domestic abuse
Warning: This story contains details that some readers may find upsetting
A man's prolonged physical and psychological abuse of his female partner turned her home into a "prison," a B.C. judge said, awarding the victim more than $200,000 in damages in a civil case.
The ruling was handed down in B.C. Supreme Court last week and details a harrowing series of assaults and threats over a period of nearly two years. The judge awarded the woman every cent of the damages she sought, totalling $204,068.33.
The woman, identified by the initials S.C., told the court her fiancé turned into "a bomb, a monster, a beast” when he drank. The decision identifies him with the initials I.E.W.
S.C. testified that her fiancé had a serious addiction to alcohol, which she realized almost immediately after they began living together in 2016.
"Before Mr. W. moved in, her home was her haven. After he moved in, it became her prison," the judge said.
The first time he hit her was within weeks of him moving into her home. At that point, she told the court, he was drinking two mickeys of vodka per day.
"When Ms. C. was on her knees collecting empty and partially empty mickeys of vodka, Mr. W. grabbed a bottle and hit her in the back of the head/neck/upper shoulder area with it. After that, confrontations became routine. Mr. W. began to regularly hit Ms. C. with a bottle, his fist, and/or he would push her down. After these assaults she would go outside and cry," Justice Catherine Murray wrote in the decision.
She estimated that he consumed about two mickeys of vodka a day until he was injured in a car crash in 2017.
After that, he would drink as many as six mickeys daily, according to S.C.
"His assaults became more forceful and frequent. He began hitting her five to six times a week," Murray said.
In addition to the frequent physical assaults, the judge said verbal abuse and threats were both serious and relentless.
"He continually demeaned her and called her vulgar names. He continually told her that she was crazy. He threatened to kill her. He kept a rifle under the bed that they shared, as well as knives and a machete on the bedside table. She lived in fear that he would use them on her while she slept," the decision says.
"He turned her home from a sanctuary into a 'living hell.'"
S.C. also told the court that when she told I.E.W to move out – which she estimates she did on at least 100 occasions – she would be subjected to more abuse.
That was what happened on the day before I.E.W was arrested in 2018 after what the court decision describes as the "most prolonged and violent assault of all." I.E.W was never charged or convicted but did enter into a peace bond in 2019 which meant he was under court-ordered conditions not to contact S.C. or go to her home. He also forfeited his firearms licence and the guns that were seized when he was arrested, according to the decision.
WEIGHING THE EVIDENCE
S.C.'s case included evidence from medical professionals, including a doctor who treated her chronic pain and severe headaches and said they were caused by "repeated physical abuse." A psychiatrist also told the court S.C. was diagnosed with severe post-traumatic stress disorder, severe anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder "from the assaults and abuse."
A civil case doesn’t require proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, the court has to decide the case on a balance of probabilities, determining what is more likely than not to have occurred.
The judge found S.C. to be a credible witness and noted that documents, reports and testimony corroborated her account.
I.E.W testified, but the judge noted that he did not call any additional witnesses or submit any documents. Further, his testimony was described as vague, confused, and contradictory.
While he "categorically denied" assaulting his fiancé prior to his accident in 2017, he also told the court that he has "no memory" of what happened after this accident, but that abusing S.C. would not have been consistent with his personality or character.
"His evidence did not make sense, nor was it supported by any other evidence. In fact, it was contrary to the other evidence. Overall, I am uncertain as to whether his confusion and lack of memory are genuine," Murray explained when assessing his credibility.
"I accept Ms. C.’s evidence. Where Mr. W.’s evidence conflicts with Ms. C.’s evidence, I prefer Ms. C.’s evidence."
Regarding his drinking, I.E.W. told the court that he does not have a problem, which he acknowledged was an opinion that his doctor and his ex-fiancé disagreed with. He admitted to carrying mickeys in his jacket pocket, but said that was a habit he picked up while in South Korea and that he primarily drank beer and rarely consumed vodka.
He also admitted to completing residential treatment for alcohol addiction, but said he only went to comply with a court-ordered condition. Asked why he told the police he was drunk when he was arrested, he told the court that "the meaning of drunk depended on the circumstances."
"On the evidence before me I have no trouble concluding that Mr. W. is guilty of the torts alleged—assault, battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress," Murray wrote, before detailing the damages she would award.
S.C. was seeking $110,000 in non-pecuniary damages as compensation for the injury and suffering caused by the abuse, which the judge granted, saying, in part, "the physical and psychological impacts of Mr. W.’s abuse have greatly impacted the quality of Ms. C.’s life and will continue to do so indefinitely."
The court also awarded S.C. $20,000 in damages for trespass, which S.C. claimed because I.E.W. refused to move out.
"I find that Mr. W. continued to occupy Ms. C.’s home without her consent," Murray wrote, noting that I.E.W. did not make any financial contributions to the household. The decision notes that he only worked one day during the entire time he lived with his fiancée.
The victim was also awarded $25,000 based on an estimate of the cost of future care and $9,068.33 as reimbursement for counselling and other expenses incurred as a result of the abuse.
S.C. also claimed and was awarded $20,000 in aggravated damages, which the judge explained are meant to compensate for mental distress.
"He shattered her," the judge said.
An additional $20,000 in punitive damages were sought and awarded.
"This award is intended to send a message to Mr. W. and like-minded individuals that violence against your partner will not be condoned," the decision said.
"Intimate partner violence is a pervasive issue in our society. It is difficult to police as it generally happens in private. When a victim does speak out, the courts must act."
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