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    Rising Punitive Damages in Employment Court Cases
    Posted: 2012-07-02 05:00:27

    Canadian legal practitioners have long said that Canadian courts had been relatively conservative compared to their American counterparts. In the U.S., it is not uncommon to hear about courts awarding damages that seem completely disproportional to the claims. In Canada, judges have often been reluctant to award excessive punitive damages arguably because such damages are meant to punish the defendant for outrageous behaviour instead of merely compensating the plaintiff. Here are some interesting numbers (found by Neil Vidmar and Matthew W. Wolfe). In American employment cases, the average amount of punitive damages awarded is $8,327,674. In personal injury cases, the number is $2,175,978. In property damage cases, the amount awarded is a whopping $4,156,070. In Canada, it is quite unusual for punitive damages to reach such high amounts. They normally range between $10,000 and $1,000,000, trending toward the lower end of the scale.

    Recently, however, one lawyer observed that Canadian punitive damages have been on the rise. Though still not quite as high as American awards, Canadian courts have been willing to award higher punitive damages amounts in employment-related cases. For example, in 2008 decision of Honda v. Kevin Keays, the Supreme Court of Canada awarded $500,000 in punitive damages to Kevin, the highest amount of punitive damages awarded in a Canadian employment case. Then, last year, in the Pate Estate v. Galway-Gavendish case, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice awarded an even larger amount, $550,000, to the plaintiff for being wrongly dismissed by his employer. Are the courts trying to deter bad behaviour more aggressively? Are they willing to go further to punish the defendant to achieve some sort of justice for the victim? It could be so. In any case, individuals that sue and claim punitive damages have brighter prospects in terms of actually recovering the amounts. This is, of course, as long as they can prove that the party that injured them has acted so outrageously that it deserves to be punished.

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