Sask. man awarded $5M in lawsuit against coroner's office over assessment
Jury found province’s chief forensic pathologist acted dishonestly or in bad faith
A man has been awarded $5 million by a Saskatchewan jury that found that the province's chief forensic pathologist unfairly assessed him while he was attempting to get hired with the coroner's office.
The dispute began in October 2011 when Racette applied for a job as a forensic pathologist, according to a statement of claim filed in 2013.
The documents detail that Racette was applying for a special licence that physicians working in the public service can obtain, and he was required to undergo an assessment. Ladham supervised the assessment.
"Prior to assessment period, Dr. Racette and Dr. Ladham enjoyed a cordial professional relationship," the statement of claims reads, pointing out that in 2007, Ladham wrote him a positive recommendation letter for a fellowship.
"Notwithstanding their good relationship in the past, during the assessment period, Dr. Ladham's conduct destroyed their good relationship."
Ladham accessed Dr. Racette's files and altered them.- Bob Hrycan, lawyer
During a five-week jury trial, Racette's lawyer Bob Hrycan said he presented evidence that Ladham had made racist comments, apparently in reference to dead bodies of Indigenous people in the morgue.
"Dr. Racette, being Métis, found these statements personally objectionable and emotionally upsetting. Dr. Ladham's comment created significant tension between Dr. Racette and Dr. Ladham," the statement reads.
Coroner's office and province denies allegations
Through a statement of defence, the coroner's office and province denies the racism allegation and other allegations that there was an intention to harm Racette's career.
According to the statement of claim, Ladham "destroyed the work product of Dr. Racette bearing upon Dr. Racette's competence to practice."
Racism in our province is something that is simply unacceptable.- Justice Minister Don Morgan
The defence argued that Racette lacked the competency to perform the duties as a forensic pathologist in the province.
Hrycan said the jury didn't have to decide if Racette was competent, but focused instead on whether or not he received an honest assessment.
"There is clear evidence that during the course of the assessment, Ladham accessed Dr. Racette's files and altered them," he said.
That evidence was obtained through an audit that the government did on the computer system operated in the lab. It also determined that Ladham allegedly physically destroyed Racette's reports from the assessment.
Ladham still working for the province
Justice Minister Don Morgan said he is asking officials to conduct an internal review.
"Racism in our province is something that is simply unacceptable," he said on Tuesday. "I can't say what exactly took place here because I don't know, but racism has no place in our province."
There is still potential that the case will be appealed, and at this time the province says Ladham is still employed.
"A decision like this is something that's a major challenge for our province. It deals with the confidence that people have with the coroner's office and with the Ministry of Justice," Morgan said. "We need to have answers on what they're doing on this."
Morgan said it is not been determined whether Ladham's previous work will have to be reviewed, nor whether Racette will be reassessed for possible employment.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons would not comment to CBC if it is investigating the matter.
There are two forensic pathologists employed by the province at this time, including Ladham.
With files from Alicia Bridges, Stephanie Taylor