Man's $2-million civil suit against cops quashed
Ontario court of appeal rejects claim

Aug 27, 2004

Jeff Mitchell, Staff Writer
More from this author

DURHAM -- Ontario's appeals court has blocked a Toronto man's attempt to revive a $15.5-million lawsuit he launched in 1995 against Durham Regional Police and the Durham Children's Aid Society, after he was charged with sexually assaulting a child.

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruling, handed down Tuesday, rejects claims made by Donald Williams of Scarborough that he was not adequately represented by his lawyer when his civil suit went to court in 2001.

In the decision, written by Justice Marvin Catzman and supported by two other appeals court judges, Durham Regional Police investigators and a CAS worker are awarded $25,000 in costs for their defence of the appeal; the original decision in 2001 awarded costs of more than $235,000 to six defendants, including police, CAS workers and relatives who first raised concerns about the sexual abuse of a young girl.

The court rejected Mr. Williams's claim that his lawyer, Richard Parker, had failed to adequately represent him during a 15-day trial in 2001. At the conclusion of the trial, a judge ruled that Durham police and CAS workers had conducted their investigation into allegations of sexual abuse against the child without bias or animosity, and that Mr. Williams's arrest and brief confinement were lawful and proper.

Mr. Williams was charged with sexual assault in 1994; after a judge ruled some evidence inadmissible during pre-trial proceedings, the charges were stayed in 1996.

Mr. Williams launched the massive civil suit in 1995, claiming wrongful arrest, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, defamation and negligence, among other allegations. Defendants included Durham police investigators Debbie White and Lynn Kantautus, CAS worker Maria D'Assisi, and the child's maternal grandmother, among others.

The decision describes often-confused courtroom proceedings when the suit went to court. There were times when Mr. Williams and Mr. Parker, his lawyer, were openly at odds over how the case ought to proceed, according to the ruling.

After a judge ruled against him, Mr. Williams appealed, claiming he was poorly represented when the suit went to trial. But when Mr. Parker pursued Mr. Williams for $50,000 in legal bills he'd racked up, they struck an agreement: Mr. Williams dropped all claims against Mr. Parker, who agreed to settle the outstanding account for $3,000.

That agreement, and Mr. Williams's denial of liability on the part of Mr. Parker, were cited in the decision released Tuesday by the appeals court.

"He pursued (a claim against Mr. Parker). He settled it," Justice Catzman wrote.

"(Mr. Williams) ought not now to be allowed to force the respondents, on the very same basis as his suit against Mr. Parker, to undergo the trouble and expense and hazards of a new trial through absolutely no fault of their own."

The court's refusal to order a new trial isn't the end to Mr. William's litigation involving Durham Regional Police.

Last month he filed a $2-million lawsuit, accusing a polygraph technician of tampering with evidence, an allegation that has not been proven in court.

That same allegation has led to a tribunal under the Police Services Act, which is scheduled to begin hearing evidence in November.