Manitoba

Peter Nygard's lawyers ask for stay in U.S. lawsuit filed by his two sons

Peter Nygard's lawyers filed a motion say the lawsuit filed by his two sons in New York should be stayed because the fashion mogul is now a defendant in a criminal case.

Lawyers argue both cases are premised on alleged violations of the same statute

Fashion mogul Peter Nygard's New York lawyers want a judge to stay a civil lawsuit filed by Nygard's son's in August. Nygard, who was once a retail giant with stores across Canada and the U.S., is currently at Headingley Correctional Centre awaiting extradition to the U.S. for sex trafficking allegations. (YouTube)

Peter Nygard's lawyers want a judge in the Southern District of New York to stay a civil lawsuit filed by the fashion designers sons. Last August two of Nygard's sons — known only as John Does 1-2 — sued their father alleging he set them up to be raped by his girlfriend, who was a "known sex worker," when they were teens. 

Nygard's New York lawyers say that case should not continue now that their client has been indicted on allegations he violated the Trafficking Victim Protection Reauthorization Act (TVPRA), which mirror the allegations in the son's lawsuit.

"The overlap between the criminal indictment against Mr. Nygard and the allegations in this civil case extend to the means by which Mr. Nygard allegedly carried out the illegal activities that are at the core of each action," wrote Nygard's New York lawyer Christopher B. Harwood in the Jan. 6 application.

Nygard, 79, was arrested in Winnipeg Dec. 14 and is awaiting extradition to the US on allegations he sexually trafficked dozens of women and underage girls for a 25-year period.

Harwood wrote that a stay is justified if a person "is already under indictment for a serious criminal offence and is required at the same time to defend a civil action involving the same subject matter."

He also asked the court to extend the deadline to file a motion to dismiss if their application for a stay is unsuccessful, because it will be difficult to get an affidavit from Nygard while he's incarcerated in Canada.

A court sketch from the first day of Peter Nygard's bail hearing on Jan. 19. Nygard, shown here, appeared in Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench by video link from Headingley Correctional Centre. (Tadens Mpwene/La Liberté Manitoba)

Lawyers representing Nygard's sons oppose the motion, and say the two cases are not based on the "same occurrence" — which is a requirement for a stay. 

"The complaint alleges that Nygard directed one of his 'girlfriends' to rape his own sons when they were each 15 years old in order to 'make men out of them,' in exchange for continued employment and other benefits," wrote Greg G. Gutzler in a Jan. 13 letter to the court.

He says while Nygard is the subject of a criminal indictment in relation to sex trafficking allegations, John Does 1-2 are not victims identified in the criminal case, and their allegations are not the same as those set out in the indictment.

"This is underscored by the fact that the Department of Justice (DOJ) intervened and requested a mandatory stay in the Jane Does Nos. 1-57 matter also pending before your Honor but has not done so here," wrote Gutzler.

57 women had signed on to a class action lawsuit in New York alleging Peter Nygard raped or sexually assaulted them as far back as in the 1970's. Last August a judge stayed the case to allow the FBI to complete a criminal investigation into similar allegations.

"If the DOJ determines that further proceedings in this matter will interfere with its criminal prosecution of Nygard and requests a stay, plaintiffs will not object," wrote Gutzler in his letter to the court.

Gutzler said the statute Nygard is relying on does not permit a defendant to request a stay but rather requires the government to make the request. He says barring that, the court should allow this case to continue.

"This court should not permit Nygard to delay adjudication of Plaintiffs' claims indefinitely — effectively denying them justice — because Nygard has been indicted for committing other similar, but unrelated crimes," wrote Gutzler.

Gutzler says Nygard has not yet been extradited to the U.S., which could take a year, on top of a criminal prosecution which could take several years.

"Nygard is 79 years old and claims to be in poor health. Delaying this matter indefinitely may prevent plaintiffs
from obtaining discovery from Nygard at all and will effectively deny them justice for the crimes their father committed against them," wrote Gutzler.

A judge has not yet ruled on the motion.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Caroline Barghout

Investigative Reporter, CBC Manitoba I-Team

Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email: caroline.barghout@cbc.ca

with files from Timothy Sawa

now