Stanley Cup Rioters

All of us in Vancouver remember the Stanley Cup rioters of 2011.  It was a horrible evening and one that resulted in a significant amount of property damage.  ICBC, in an effort to recouple the costs incurred due to the actions of the rioters, brought a claim against 82 people that they identified as participating in the riots.  Many of these settled but 10 of these cases went to trial.  In a decision on Friday, the trial judge held that the defendants must reimburse ICBC for the cost to repair the vehicles.  The judge did not award punitive damages against the defendants, finding that they had already been punished through the criminal justice proceedings.  The court confirmed the principle behind punitive damages, that being that the objective is to punish, deter and denounce the defendant.  The courts findings that led to the decision not to award punitive damages is found at paragraphs 129 and 130 and is as follows:

[129]  I do not minimize the gravity of the conduct that took place.  Watching the videos of the rioting was a disturbing exercise because it illustrated a major part of a major city in complete disarray, caused by the intentional acts of the rioters.  It showed the delicate line between order and chaos.  However, the criminal sentences took into account the principles of denunciation and deterrence and tailored the sentences to the moral culpability of the accused.  While it is true, as pointed out by ICBC, that the accused were not charged with offences related to damage to property, I do not see that the sentences would have been difference had that been the case because the factors that were taken into account in the sentencing included the property damage not only to the vehicles but in general.

[130]  On that basis I decline to award punitive damages.  There comes a point when “enough is enough”.

The law suit by ICBC is a departure from what we normally see in our courts.  The reality is that most if not all of the defendants are very young, and have very few if any assets.  Getting a judgment against them is one thing, securing payment of that judgment is another.  ICBC does however have ways of extracting payment of a judgment that a regular citizen does not, including withholding of licensing until the judgment has been satisfied.   The trial that has been concluded did not address the amount of damages that ICBC is entitled to.  The decision limited ICBC’s recovery to the cost of repair to the vehicles.  From a review of the decision it appears that there were 9 vehicles involved.  The value of those vehicles is not apparent from the decision itself.  The trial spanned 10 days and ICBC had three lawyers representing them at the trial.  The cost of pursuing the case would have been very significant.  ICBC clearly is making a point in pursuing this case, rather than making a business decision.  Hopefully the actions of ICBC in pursuing this civil case will have an impact in deterring others from following the actions of the rioters, with a fear of not just potential criminal implications but financial implications in having to pay for the damage and destruction that they cause.