Claude Chamberland, lawyer
Finally comes that rare and long-awaited moment: Summer and with it the succession of opportunities to come together and celebrate. But beware, the joy of regained freedom can get out of hand and lead to excesses that we may have to pay dearly and for a long time to come. Flashback: “April 21, 2008, the NHL playoffs are in full swing. The Canadiens hockey club eliminated their long-standing rival, the Boston Bruins. At around 10 p.m., the Bell Center empties and follows a period of spontaneous festivity in the neighboring streets. All describe the atmosphere as festive, even family. Unfortunately, the party turns into a storm. In the aftermath of the riot, the SPVM noted that nine vehicles were set on fire and six others required major repairs. «
This description does not come from a historian, but from Judge Sylvain Coutlee in the introduction of an important civil law judgment pronounced on June 19, 2014. He ordered that certain rioters who acted in concert each pay for the totality of the damages that ‘they caused to a vehicle. For other rioters, he orders them to pay only for the specific damage they caused, in addition to punitive damages. The city is appealing the judgments to the Supreme Court, its attorneys submitting that articles 1480 and 1526 of the Civil Code of Quebec would authorize the victim of vandalism to hold anyone responsible for causing damage for all of the damage. resulting from what she described as a wrongful collective act.
The faults of rioters vary and fall into a wide range of misdeeds. They range from kicking the door of a vehicle to arson it. Some mistakes are made at the start of the riot, others a few hours later. With the exception of a few isolated cases, the defendants act spontaneously and independently of each other and they do not know each other. Normally, a person who commits a fault only has to pay for the specific harm they have caused to someone else. Section 1526 provides an exception where two or more people participate in the same mischief or, by committing separate misdeeds, contribute to the same damage. Section 1480 provides a further exception when two or more people participate together in the same mischief, or in separate mischief, but it is impossible to determine who caused what damage. In either case, only one damage must have been caused by the persons involved so that each can be held individually liable up to the amount of the full value of the damage. Here, these exceptions were not upheld by the Supreme Court.
However, let us remember that in addition to the damage directly caused by each of the vandals clearly identified by the surveillance cameras, the Civil Court condemned them to very significant punitive damages. A slippage in any collective celebration therefore risks having serious consequences: arrest, criminal prosecution, conviction, sanction and criminal record. Then, while you believe that everything is finished, summons in Civil Court and rebel! Okay, kicking a car can’t get expensive. Count a few hundred dollars in compensation, a few thousand dollars in punitive damages, and as much for your legal fees and court costs.
The party ends up getting expensive.