Cleared Camrose dentist Simona Tibu sues province, sheriff for $5.6 million
Sheriff said she behaved like a 'feral cat' during routine traffic stop
The Camrose, Alta., dentist at the centre of a traffic stop gone wrong — a toothache of a case that has preoccupied courts and legal teams for close to three years — is suing the Alberta government for $5.6 million.
Simona Tibu's lawyers say they'll now push forward with a civil counterclaim lawsuit, after a recent decision in the Alberta Court of Appeal further cleared her of any criminal wrongdoing.
"In 88 seconds, a routine traffic stop became an altercation on the side of a busy highway endangering the life of the plaintiff ... and other motorists," reads Tibu's statement of claim.
In the five-page document, Tibu's lawyers explain what they think went wrong, after a sheriff pulled their client over for speeding on Highway 21, then handcuffed and restrained her without legal grounds for arrest.
At this point I think she is just trying to put her life, her practice and her reputation back together.- Eliza Maynes, lawyer
The lawsuit claims the sheriff asked Tibu for her identification but didn't give her a chance to respond, grabbed her cellphone and threw it in a ditch, "violently" removed her from her car and arrested her without a warrant.
The sheriff "proceeded to handcuff the plaintiff while bending and pressing his body over her … then pushed or shoved the plaintiff to the ground and fell on top of her face-down into cement while she was handcuffed," the lawsuit states, adding that the officer's knee and body weight landed on the dentist's back.
The counterclaim seeks $5.6 million for a list of damages that includes loss of income, future loss of income and earning capacity, and costs of care.
This lawsuit follows Tibu's statement of defence to a lawsuit filed by the sheriff, Sgt. Robert Behiels. His ongoing lawsuit for $4 million against Tibu alleges he suffered damaged reputation and loss of income since he stopped her for speeding near Camrose in August 2013.
None of the allegations contained in the lawsuits have been proven in court.
Acquitted of all charges
Tibu first made headlines about three years ago, when she posted photos online of her bruised and bloodied face — claiming she had been attacked by a peace officer who stopped her for speeding. Tibu was taken by ambulance to St. Mary's Hospital after the struggle.
The sheriff who stopped her was charged with assault and sexual assault. A judge terminated those charges before trial. Behiels was assigned to desk duty.
Tibu was then charged with assault against the peace officer, and convicted months later. During the trial, Behiels compared Tibu's behaviour to that of a "feral cat," saying she was screaming and acting irrationally as he tried to ask for her identification. He testified that he did not push her to the ground but, rather, that she fell.
A judge found Tibu guilty and she received a one-year suspended sentence of community service. She then appealed that ruling. In December 2015, a higher court overruled that decision and acquitted her of all charges.
Justice Sheila Greckol ruled then that the original trial judge "misapprehended the facts" and "ignored the actual evidence," and that, in fact, the officer did not give Tibu adequate time to produce her identification and therefore did not have legal grounds to arrest her.
"Fortunately, it's a very unusual situation. But it did have a very negative impact for her, both personally and professionally," said Eliza Maynes, Tibu's lawyer.
"At this point I think she is just trying to put her life, her practice and her reputation back together."
Tibu is a Canadian citizen, originally from Romania. She qualified as a dentist in that country, then studied two years at the University of Toronto dentistry school to qualify to practise in Canada. She moved to Camrose in 2010 to practise dentistry.
Maynes said this experience has inspired her client to start a charity for people who believe they were mistakenly accused of a crime. In the Canadian justice system, people who are wrongly convicted are not reimbursed for the legal fees incurred defending themselves.