Province denies liability for sexual assault in special care home

The province says it was not negligent when it allowed Andrew Douglas, who was registered as a sex offender in 2011, to  be placed in one of its special care homes where, within weeks of his arrival, he molested a disabled adult resident.

The province has been named as a defendant in a civil lawsuit that was initiated by the victim's mother after Douglas was sentenced to two years in jail for sexually assaulting her son at Joann's Special Care home in Saint John.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages for pain and suffering from the province and Andrew Douglas and his father, Michael Douglas.

It also names Joann Lapointe, the owner of the special care home, as a third party.

Because of a publication ban, the victim and his mother cannot be identified. Douglas was placed in the home on January 11, 2017.

Within the first two months of living there, the lawsuit claims he sexually abused the victim on at least three occasions.

Brian Chisholm/CBC

At the time of Douglas's placement, the province says, it knew he'd been incarcerated for 40 days as a result of assaulting a girlfriend and had been serving an 18-month conditional sentence.

In 2011, Douglas admitted to trying to persuade a 10-year-old girl to show him her breasts, while he was pretending to be another young girl on Facebook.

The province says it requested that Michael Douglas disclose his son's criminal background to the special care home operator, before the date of his moving-in.

Province and operator disagree

The province says the father confirmed to the Department of Social Development that he did so.

About a week after Douglas moved in, the province says, a team meeting took place. The meeting was attended by Andrew Douglas, both his parents, the special care home operator, a mental health worker, and a probation officer, the province says.

Joann Lapointe says something different. In her defence documents, filed with the court, she says she was not provided with all relevant information regarding Douglas's criminal history and wasn't warned he may have posed a danger to her other residents.

Brian Chisholm/CBC

The claim against the province says the victim suffered mental anguish, nightmares and flashbacks as a result of the sexual assault.

It also says the victim attempted suicide in the special care home on July 2, 2017.

Background checks just for employees

The province says it owes no special duty of care to the plaintiff by virtue of his being a vulnerable person.

It also says it's not required to investigate clients prior to placement.

In 2018, Lisa Harris, who was then minister of seniors and long-term care, said employees at special care homes are subjected to criminal background checks but residents are not.

As part of its defence, the province has also filed a cross claim, asserting that all losses or damages suffered by the plaintiff are the responsibility of Andrew Douglas and his father and that they should be the ones to pay.