A Nova Scotia woman who was doused with gasoline and set on fire in front of her children in 2001 has been awarded almost $430,000 in damages.
In a ruling dated Nov. 30, Judge Douglas MacLellan of Nova Scotia Supreme Court ordered Joanne Sylliboy and Vincent Bezanson to pay Robin Tomah $429,527.39 for damages, loss of income, future medical costs and prejudgment interest.
Tomah — who was 34 years old at the time — was attacked on Aug. 29, 2001, outside her home in Millbrook by Sylliboy and Bezanson.
According to court documents, Tomah was confronted by Sylliboy and Bezanson and doused with gasoline. Bezanson threw Tomah to the ground and pinned her there while Sylliboy struck a match and lit her on fire.
Tomah freed herself and ran to her bathroom to douse the fire with water from her shower. Sylliboy and Bezanson — who were common-law partners at the time — followed her and prevented her from using the shower to put out the flames.
The victim's three children were all home at the time and witnessed the attack.
Sylliboy and Bezanson eventually left the home and Tomah was taken to the hospital. She suffered third-degree burns to her chest and neck, as well as her face and arms. Doctors drugged her into a coma and she remained at the Halifax hospital for 10 weeks.
Sylliboy and Bezanson pleaded guilty to attempted murder and were each sentenced to 12 years in prison. Both are now out of prison on parole — Sylliboy in 2006 and Bezanson in 2009. The motive for the assault was never explored in court.
Tomah has undergone 18 surgeries in relation to injuries caused by the attack. Her doctor said she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, including the symptoms of depression, insomnia, anxiety, fear and pervasive nightmares.
"These symptoms have had a crippling effect on Ms. Tomah's family and personal relationships, as well as her ability to be employed," Dr. Murdo Ferguson is quoted in the ruling.
The ruling also quoted Tomah, who described her mental and emotional health.
"At times I become so irritable and feel so anxious that I am unable to leave my home, even for medical appointments," she is quoted as saying.
"Certain triggers such as the smell of gasoline, driving by the apartment I had on August 29, 2001, or a fire shown on television can cause me severe stress such that I stay in bed for days and feel unable to get up."
Tomah said she no longer regularly goes to her children's social and extracurricular activities because she is embarrassed to have her scars seen in public.