In Thatcher v. Lowe 2021 BCSC 590, the injured claimant sought compensation for injuries he suffered from an assault by 2 members of the Hells Angels in 2016.  The injured claimant was sitting in his vehicles when several cars parked behind him and a group of 8-10 men got out and surrounded his vehicle.  Members of the group, who were holding various weapons, opened his car doors  and accused him of wearing a Hells Angels vest and patch which he denied.  They then proceeded to assault him and make a number of threats to him such as “busting his teeth out”, threatening the safety of his family and telling him that the Hells Angels had his name and were coming after him.

The defendant Hells Angels were charged criminally.  They eventually pleaded guilty.

In this civil action, the injured claimant sought damages for the injuries he suffered in the assault. Despite pleading guilty in the criminal action, the defendant Hells Angels surprisingly denied any involvement in the assault in the civil claim.

This injured claimant then applied for a summary judgment on liability (fault) with the damage assessment to take place in a separate trial.  The primary argument was that there was no issue on liability on the basis of the guilty pleas.

The trial judge referred to the doctrine of abuse of process which prevents a misuse of the court process in a way that would be unfair to a party or brings the administration of justice into disrepute.  In this case, the doctrine may be applied to prevent the re-litigation of a matter that has already been determined.

The trial judge dismissed the defendant Hells Angels argument stating:

[61]         Mr. Lowe and Mr. Mansfield were charged with serious offences. If convicted, they were facing jail time and a substantial restitution order. They carefully and deliberately entered guilty pleas understanding that, in addition to their sentences, they may also be held civilly liable. They explicitly admitted the circumstances alleged by the Crown.

[62]         The criminal proceedings were not tainted by fraud or dishonesty, there is no fresh evidence and the stakes were not so minor as to provide an inadequate incentive for Mr. Lowe and Mr. Mansfield to defend themselves.

[63]         The position now being taken by Mr. Lowe and Mr. Mansfield is the very thing the doctrine of abuse of process is designed to address. It would wholly undermine the administration of justice to permit Mr. Lowe and Mr. Mansfield to derive the substantial benefits of their guilty pleas and then permit them to resile from their unequivocal admissions in these proceedings.

[64]         For all of these reasons, there is no genuine issue for trial with respect to the liability of Mr. Lowe and Mr. Mansfield in assault, battery and false imprisonment. I grant summary judgment on these liability issues to Mr. Thatcher and against Mr. Lowe and Mr. Mansfield. I refer the liability of Mr. Lowe and Mr. Mansfield for intentional infliction of mental suffering and the assessment of damages to the trial list.

Read more about this assault case in a recent Vancouver Sun article.

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