British Columbia

'Extensive attack': Former gold prospector wins dog bite lawsuit against Surrey RCMP

A Surrey man has won his lawsuit against the RCMP over injuries he sustained from 17 police dog bites in 2005, with police conduct deemed 'negligence.'

Judge declares 'negligence,' but cuts man's award for lost income because he kept or gifted his gold

A dog handler with Surrey RCMP returns his police service dog to the truck in this file photo. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

A Surrey, B.C., construction manager has won his lawsuit against the RCMP over injuries he sustained from multiple police dog bites in 2005.

A former Yukon gold prospector, Jean Claude Emond's life took a sharp turn that year when a police service dog bit him multiple times during an arrest on a warrant for assault.

Sixteen years later, the 61-year-old was awarded $63,750 by a Supreme Court of B.C. judge — far less than the nearly $6 million he sought as compensation for lifelong injuries that forced him to abandon his passion of mineral exploration.

"I find that the Federal Crown is liable to Mr. Emond in negligence," B.C. Supreme Court Justice Amy Francis wrote in her judgment released Thursday. 

He testified during the case that he'd been bitten 17 times, and presented photographs of numerous cuts including on his torso, buttocks and legs, including two "very large lacerations on his leg," the judge noted, and that the dog was allowed to continue biting him even after he was placed into handcuffs and restrained.

Police officers and their dogs undergo training at the RCMP Police Dog Services training centre in Innisfail, Alta., in this 2015 file photo. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press )

The federal and provincial governments targeted by his lawsuit countered that, "Emond has not proven that the injuries he suffered from the Incident have had sufficient impact on him to give rise to a claim for any damages," according to the judge's summary.

And while Justice Francis acknowledged the officers who arrested Emond had made a "good faith effort" to remember what happened in 2005 — about a "high stress, confusing, physical altercation" — she said she ultimately could not accept the police version of events.

She concluded that none of the officers' accounts could explain how he "ended up with multiple wounds" across his body, not only at the main dog bite on his left leg. 

"The only probable sequence of events … is that Mr. Emond continued to be bitten by the [dog] after the handcuffs were placed on his wrists," the judge determined.

Failure to control the dog was "negligent," she wrote, either because police "negligently failed to call [the dog] off after Mr. Emond was handcuffed" or because the dog "continued to attack Mr. Emond after he had been called off."

'Appears likely to always suffer'

Emond argued that the arrest caused so much permanent damage he could no longer pursue his passion for gold. The police argued his bite wounds were not as serious as he claimed even if they were liable.

But Francis wrote he "still suffers, and appears likely to always suffer" pain and discomfort. 

However, she awarded him far less than he wanted, partly because he "contributed" to the altercation by fleeing police and initially resisting arrest.

"While Mr. Emond was undoubtedly at fault, the extent of the injuries he suffered vastly exceeded anything he could reasonably have foreseen when he ran away from the Arresting Officers.... [He] cannot be found to be primarily blameworthy for the extensive attack that he suffered," Francis wrote. 

The court awarded Emond $85,000 in compensation, but reduced it by 25 per cent because of his role in resisting arrest, and because he couldn't prove how much income he actually lost from gold exploration.

"He testified that he didn't like to sell his gold, and that historically he has kept most of the gold he has mined or gifted it to people," Justice Francis wrote, in assessing his lost potential income because of the dog-biting incident. "Emond does not appear to have ever made much money from his mining ventures. 

"I cannot find that … there was a real and substantial possibility that Mr. Emond would have had a significant income from gold prospecting."