Bullying affects all ages and all aspects of our lives including: school, work, home, and recreation. (Photo: Flickr user, ainnicer1971)
Bullying affects all ages and all aspects of our lives including: school, work, home, and recreation. (Photo: Flickr user, ainnicer1971)

Bully for hire?

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One of my favorite movies of all time, the Karate Kid, provides a classic example of bullying. Daniel Larusso (played by Ralph Macchio) moves to a new community where he gets repeatedly bullied by a school mate, Johnny Lawrence (played by Willam Zabka). Fortunately for Daniel, his apartment caretaker, Mr. Miyagi (played by Pat Morita) has been trained in karate and negotiates a deal with Johnny’s sensei to stop the bullying and fight it out at a karate tournament. What is great about the movie, besides Mr. Miyagi kicking butt, is the fact that it depicts the reality that bullying affects all ages and all aspects of our lives including: school, work, home, and recreation.

Unfortunately, we can’t all conquer our bullies at a karate tournament. When situations get serious, lawyers are often retained to assist victims of bullying in making claims for damages or defending those accused of bullying in both criminal and civil cases.

For the lawyers, technology has made finding evidence of bullying a much easier task. Unfortunately for the bullies, because technology has become so efficient, they often act before they think about the consequences of their actions and the trail of evidence that they leave behind. Before cell phones and the internet, most people would not take the time to write or publicly post a sign or video about someone that is insulting or embarrassing. Even if one thought about it, common sense would take effect before the plan was finally carried out. However, you can now be photographed, recorded or written about and have that information uploaded onto the internet or forwarded to friends in a span of less than 30 seconds.
The consequences of bullying will depend on the facts of the case including the type of bullying and the effect the bullying had on the recipient. Obviously, bullies who physically assault others can be charged criminally and pursued for damages if injuries are sustained. However, what many people don’t appreciate is that threatening behavior, without physical contact, or published defamatory statements can constitute a criminal offence.

In the BC case of Regina v. D.H., the accused, a high school girl, threatened to beat up another student. She was convicted of uttering a threat to cause death or bodily harm. The case was of great interest to the public because the victim committed suicide the day after the threat was received. Fortunately for the accused, the victim left a suicide note and while she mentioned the accused, she did not appear to be a major player in her decision to commit suicide. The accused showed remorse and was sentenced to 15 months probation, community service and several other requirements she had to adhere to while on probation.

In addition to criminal consequences, there can also be financial consequences. If the victim suffers physically or emotionally, the victim may pursue a personal injury claim. If they suffer financially, they may pursue a defamation claim (Note: defamation requires proof that a statement was published to a third person, it must reference the victim and the statement must be defamatory). If the bullying relates to matters protected by the Human Rights Code (i.e. race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age of that person or that group or class of persons), the victim may choose to pursue damages through the Human Rights Tribunal. If the bullying occurs at work, it may also give rise to a Workers’ Compensation claim (in unique circumstances) or claims for constructive dismissal or intentional infliction of mental suffering. In some cases bullying will also result in a claim for invasion of privacy. The bottom line is that personal and financial consequences of bullying can be devastating.

Some people might think its ironic for a lawyer to talk about bullying as I have heard many clients say when searching for a lawyer that they want a “bull dog” or from my perspective, “a bully for hire”. The request is not surprising given the negative stereotypes of lawyers. Perhaps it is “an eye for an eye” logic at play, but you can’t deal with a bully by hiring one. You can however hire a lawyer, who can provide you with an opinion of your case and where appropriate pursue a claim for damages.

Important Note: The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.

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About the Author

Keri Grenier is an experienced personal injury lawyer based at Murphy Battista LLP's Kelowna office. She also holds a B.A. in psychology. Her practice focuses on helping people who have been injured in motor vehicle accidents or due to the negligence of others.

In her column, Keri provides practical information about personal injury claims in a format that is simple and easy to understand.

Email: [email protected]

Website: http://www.murphybattista.com

Twitter:  http://twitter.com/KelownaLawyer

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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