Man owing $1.3M to nurse he attacked walks out of court saying he could 'snap again'

·4 min read
Bruce (Randy) Van Horlick, 73, leaves the Moncton courthouse in 2020. He owes a nurse manager he assaulted in 2019 more than $1.3 million.  (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)
Bruce (Randy) Van Horlick, 73, leaves the Moncton courthouse in 2020. He owes a nurse manager he assaulted in 2019 more than $1.3 million. (Shane Magee/CBC - image credit)

An Acadieville man who owes the nurse he assaulted $1.3 million walked out of court Monday after warning he was on the verge of hurting others.

Bruce (Randy) Van Horlick, 73, was found guilty in 2020 of two criminal charges of assault and sentenced to six months in jail for attacking nurse manager Natasha Poirier and nurse Teresa Thibeault at the Dr. Georges-L.-Dumont Hospital in March 2019.

Poirier, who wasn't able to return to work after the assault, successfully sued Van Horlick and a judge awarded damages in March.

Monday's hearing in the Court of King's Bench saw Poirier's lawyer Abigail Herrington questioning Van Horlick about his finances, a process called examination after judgment.

I don't want to see anyone else get hurt and I can't guarantee that they won't. - Bruce (Randy) Van Horlick

But before the questions started, Van Horlick told clerk Chantal Moreau he has no money and can't afford a lawyer. Then he issued a warning.

"I've been suffering from PTSD ever since this happened and I've been trying very hard not to hurt anybody, but if this gets too stressful, I may just leave," Van Horlick said.

"I don't want to see anyone else get hurt and I can't guarantee that they won't."

More sheriffs were called to the courtroom and Herrington began her questioning.

Van Horlick said he is retired with no income other than Old Age Security payments.

He said he owns a home purchased about a decade ago for $25,000, but there is now a lien on the property from a line of credit and he has been unable to pay his credit card bill.

He said his income is less than $1,000 per month, and expenses are more than that.

"There is no money," Van Horlick said.

Tori Weldon/CBC
Tori Weldon/CBC

When the lawyer began asking for details of his monthly expenses, Van Horlick stood up and walked toward the door saying he couldn't take any more.

A sheriff stood in the doorway as Moreau told Van Horlick that Poirier could ask the court to order him to return and resume questioning.

"I don't have much choice, I'm getting so stressed out I may snap again and I don't want to go there. Once was enough."

The clerk said she'd prepare a report saying he had failed to complete the process, and Van Horlick left.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

Herrington, speaking to reporters outside the courthouse, said generally if a person doesn't take part in the process the clerk's report can be used as part of a motion for contempt of court.

Herrington said they can also separately get an order to seize property despite the lack of participation.

She said the hearing was one of the more tense she's taken part in.

"This is obviously a tense proceeding for both sides," Herrington said.

"Usually people end up in this situation because something in their life has gone wrong and they have a judgment against them they can't afford to pay.

"So it's never a good day for someone who's in an examination like that. So they're often tense, but obviously this one was particularly tense given the background."

Van Horlick had failed to contest the allegations in the lawsuit. He didn't appear in court for the one-day trial on Jan. 10 and didn't have a lawyer representing him.

Shane Magee/CBC
Shane Magee/CBC

At the time of the March 11, 2019 assault, Poirier supervised 53 others in a surgical unit where Van Horlick's wife was a patient.

After his wife was moved to a room closer to the nurses station for closer observation, Van Horlick went to Poirier's office demanding she be moved to a quieter room.

Shortly after, he pulled her from her chair by her hair, punched her on the temple, twisted an arm backward, twisted several of her fingers backward, threw her against a wall and assaulted another nurse who came to help.

Evidence presented in the case indicated she required several surgeries and was left with chronic pain, a brain injury, frequent headaches, sensitivity to light and sounds, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Mr. Van Horlick's conduct with respect to this vicious attack with the assault and battery in particular is plainly flagrant  and outrageous," Justice Jean-Paul Ouellette wrote in his decision awarding $1.3 million to Poirier.