Saskatchewan

Saskatoon woman bitten by police dog can't sue, court rules

A Saskatoon woman who was bitten by a police dog and arrested even thought she didn't do anything wrong cannot sue, a judge has ruled.

Under section 10 of The Police Act, any acts undertaken in goodwill cannot face litigation

The lawsuit was dismissed on the grounds that the officers acted in good faith leading up to and during the incident. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

A Saskatoon woman who was bitten by a police dog and arrested even though she didn't do anything illegal cannot sue for damages, a judge has ruled.

In August 2013, Sheila Tataquason, the complainant, was sitting in the backyard of her Avenue H home with a friend, Joshua Desnomie, when she was attacked by a Saskatoon police dog.

Saskatoon police were responding to a robbery call in the area at the time and were looking for two suspects, but neither Tataquason nor Desmonie had anything to do with it.

Diego, a German shepherd, bit Sheila Tataquason although she wasn't involved in a crime. (Saskatoon Police Service)

Tataquason launched a lawsuit against the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners and three police officers, but in a recent decision, the claim was dismissed due to section 10 the Saskatchewan Police Act.

The section protects police from liability in the line of duty should someone get injured, as long as the officers are acting in good faith.

In the case of the Saskatoon police, they were acting to apprehend presumably armed and dangerous robbery suspects and even though they got the wrong people, there was no malice involved, provincial court Judge Vanessa Monar Enweani wrote in her Sept. 20 decision.

Bystanders mistaken for robbery suspects

It was nevertheless a "truly unfortunate" incident that left Tataquason injured, Enweani said.

The dog — which court heard is named Diego — latched onto the side of her stomach and bit her, requiring her to go to the hospital to get three stitches. 

Desnomie attempted to get the dog off Tataquason and while he was doing that, its handler Cst. Joel Lalonde arrived on the scene.

Desnomie alleges Lalonde punched him in the side of the head. The two were involved in a "tussle," when Lalonde identified himself and handcuffed Desnomie.

Lalonde estimates the dog was "engaged" on the plaintiff for five to 10 seconds.

Cst. J. Jeffrey Broadbent responded to the incident as well with his partner, Cst. James Bonynge. All the police officers were named in the lawsuit.

Cst. Broadbent placed Desnomie under arrest and questioned him in a patrol car.

The suspects were described as a male in dark clothing and a female in lighter clothing, both Aboriginal and appearing to be in their 20s.

Cst. Broadbent acknowledged Desnomie and Tataquason partially fit the description but looked to be in their 40s, court heard. 

Lasting effects

Tataquason says in the lawsuit she experienced stomach pain and is suffering from nerve damage as a result of the attack. 

"Since the incident, she has suffered panic attacks, stress, and sleepless nights trying to get over what happened to her. She is now scared of dogs and is afraid to walk down the street alone," according to the court papers.

Her lawsuit said the officer and the dog acted "unreasonably and unlawfully."

She also said she was taken into police custody for 6½ hours before being released.

The trauma to Tataquason and its lasting effects were acknowledged by the judge.

"The injuries suffered by the plaintiff are truly unfortunate and regrettable. It is clear from the evidence that the plaintiff had no involvement in the robbery. It is also clear that the incident caused her physical pain and emotional trauma," the decision read.

However, the Police Act's section 10 was found applicable as the officers acted in good faith while on duty.

Tataquason's claim was dismissed.

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