A Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge has awarded a Halifax woman more than $52,000 for the defamation she suffered at the hands of a provincial government employee.
The amount, however, is considerably less than the $360,000 Laura Doucette was looking for in a case that's taken three years to resolve.
Doucette was enrolled in the policing program at Success College in 2012 when she applied for a firearms licence. The Department of Justice officer assigned to process Doucette's application, David Grimes, had doubts about her suitability.
- Halifax woman in defamation case seeks $360K in damages from province
Grimes discovered in the course of investigating Doucette's application that she had once worked at a Tim Hortons that was the target of an armed robbery.
Since Grimes felt Doucette's account of that incident was suspicious, he told Success College and Dalhousie University security, where she had a job placement, that Doucette was a suspect in the armed robbery.
Doucette subsequently sued for defamation and just before the case went to trial, the province admitted Grimes's allegations were false. The province also admitted Grimes breached Doucette's privacy by revealing details of her past to supervisors at both schools.
'Actions were offensive and inexplicable'
"His actions were offensive and inexplicable," Justice Denise Boudreau wrote in a decision that came out Monday, and which awarded Doucette damages.
"His task was an investigation of the plaintiff's application for a firearms licence; by no measure did he appropriately accomplish his task. Rather, he used the opportunities presented by his position to cause havoc in the life of the plaintiff."
Boudreau awarded Doucette more than $2,600 in special damages for the wages she lost when her first attempt to complete the program at Success College stalled.
Doucette got $35,000 in general damages for the slander and an additional $15,000 for aggravated damages because of the harm Grimes's false allegations caused.
Boudreau was also dismissive of the letter of apology Grimes provided.
"The words used in the letter demonstrate Mr. Grimes' difficulty in acknowledging that he, and only he, was the cause of the problem," the judge wrote.
"I am further troubled by his testimony that his apology was originally four pages long, and that he feared it being 'torn apart' by counsel."
Boudreau is giving the two sides 20 days to submit arguments for costs. At the trial, Doucette's lawyer, David Coles, had asked the court to consider awarding $150,000 in court costs.