British Columbia

Ledcor VP fighting Cactus Club over 'inappropriate touching' statement

A senior executive with construction giant Ledcor is vowing to appeal a B.C. Supreme Court judge's decision to dismiss the defamation lawsuit he brought against a Cactus Club server who alleged he 'inappropriately touched' her.

Dwight Brissette plans to appeal judge's dismissal of defamation suit against restaurant and server

A claim that a client inappropriately touched a server at the Coal Harbour Cactus Club Cafe has resulted in a B.C. Supreme Court defamation lawsuit.

A senior executive with construction giant Ledcor is vowing to appeal a B.C. Supreme Court judge's decision to dismiss the defamation lawsuit he brought against a Cactus Club server who alleged he 'inappropriately touched' her.

Dwight Brissette sued the restaurant and server Katrina Coley in relation to the incident, which allegedly occurred after a night of drinks and food on an outdoor patio at the Cactus Club's Coal Harbour location in June 2013.

According to a judgment posted online, Coley told a manager Brissette touched "the lower part of the side of her butt for about a second" while she was standing next to him at one point in the evening.

She claimed he also called her 'Kitty-Kat".

Those allegations were later relayed to Brissette's party, which included other Ledcor executives, by a manager who explained why they were being cut off from ordering more drinks. Ledcor is a massive construction company with projects all over North America, with projects ranging from mining to communications to transportation.

Ledcor executive Dwight Brissette says he will appeal the decision by Madame Justice Miriam Gropper.

Brissette, who is Ledcor's senior vice-president of health, safety and environmental protection, denied touching Coley and sued, claiming his reputation was on the line.

But Justice Miriam Gropper dismissed his claim.

"I find that the defence of justification has been proven," Gropper wrote.

"I also find that Mr. Brissette and others in his party called Ms. Coley 'Kitty-Kat' throughout the evening and that made her uncomfortable although as she says, she did not consider it to be inappropriate, 'until the night transpired and other events happened.'"

'I didn't do anything wrong'

Reached by telephone, Brissette said he will appeal the decision.

"I didn't do anything wrong and I've spent about $70,000 to $80,000 to date to fight this — to get my name cleared," he said.

"So with that judgment, I disagree with it and we automatically are appealing it."

Gropper's decision came after a summary trial, which means she relied on affidavits and exhibits as opposed to live testimony from witnesses to come to a decision. Brissette's lawyers wanted a full trial.

According to the decision, Brissette said he drank five nine-ounce glasses of wine and one or two two-ounce shooters of tequila over the course of five hours on the night in question.

Coley claimed Brissette touched her shortly before 10 p.m.

"Ms. Coley says that she was shocked at Mr. Brissette's conduct," the decision says.

Manager Regina Novikov claimed she approached the table after they were cut off, just as Brissette was getting up from his seat to go to the washroom.

She said another man at the table asked why they couldn't have any more drinks.

And it was at that point she said she told the party Brissette "had inappropriately touched Ms. Coley and had referred to her in an inappropriate manner."

'Extremely serious allegation'

According to the judgment, Brissette claimed he learned about the allegation after leaving the Cactus Club.

He then returned and ended up confronting restaurant manager Ryan Dwyer.

Dwyer claimed Brissette wanted to speak with Coley to clear things up. But he was told she was not comfortable talking with him.

Brissette claimed he was upset and anxious "as to why he was falsely accused of inappropriately touching Ms. Coley."

"Mr. Brissette believes he also said 'I am not going to take this sitting down. You are not going to f--k with Ledcor like this," the judgment says.

"Mr. Brissette explained that he took liberties in his language with Mr. Dwyer because he was talking to a man."

Video footage of the night shows Coley standing next to Brissette, but it does not show him touching the server.

"However, the video recording is not focused on an area where the touching could be observed," Gropper writes.

"Thus, while the video recording does not show Mr. Brissette touching Ms. Coley in a manner she describes, it is not proof that the touching did not occur, as Mr. Brissette suggests."

Cactus club staff vs Ledcor executives

Gropper said she preferred the evidence of the Cactus Club staff to that of Brissette and another Ledcor executive. She also found that Brissette's consumption of alcohol impinged upon his reliability.

In an affidavit, Brissette says his office window overlooks the Cactus Club, causing him anxiety and distress. 

I wanted to get to court. I wanted everybody to see the video.- Ledcor VP Dwight Brissette

"I was, and continue to this day to be, extremely distressed at having been accused of sexually assaulting and sexually harassing a young female, which is an extremely serious allegation to have made against you," Brissette claims.

"This is particularly so because of the sensitive nature of my employment as an executive responsible for the health and safety of thousands of Ledcor employees."

In his affidavit, Brissette says he told the president of Ledcor Constructors about the allegation. He says the other executive at the table on the night in question told Ledcor CEO David Lede.

On the phone, he said he still wants to go to trial.

"I wanted to get to court. I wanted everybody to see the video. I wanted them to see that I didn't do anything wrong," he said.

Coley could not be reached for comment.