Lawyer seeks to have historic sexual assault allegation removed from Laurentian’s claims process

“This is a claim, which we respectfully submit, should be dealt with outside of this process,” the plaintiff’s attorney said.

Lawyer representing woman seeking millions in damages for sexual assault she says occurred when she was a student at Laurentian University in 1979, argues legislation allows case to be dropped of LU’s current insolvency restructuring process.

Laurentian is still under creditor protection under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).

The woman’s lawyer, Aron Zaltz, is trying to add Laurentian as a defendant in a lawsuit brought by his client against the University of Sudbury (one of the former federated universities operating on the LU campus) in relation to this affair.

To do this, the stay of proceedings protecting LU from its creditors must be lifted in this specific case.

The matter was heard by Chief Justice Geoffrey Morawetz, the judge who has heard most of Laurentian’s insolvency-related cases, in a three-hour hearing on April 8.

According to court documents, the woman, Barbara Robinson, alleges she was sexually assaulted by John Sahadat, a professor of religion at the University of Sudbury, while a student there in the late 1970s. Sahadat died in May 2021.

None of the allegations made by Robinson have been proven in court.

While Sahadat was employed by the University of Sudbury, Zaltz said the alleged abuse occurred while Robinson was enrolled in Sahadat’s classes as a student at Laurentian.

Robinson filed a $5 million claim against Laurentian University over it as part of its insolvency claims process last summer, but the claim was dismissed, with Laurentian’s CCAA monitor saying that Sahadat was an employee of the University of Sudbury, not LU.

She appealed the decision, but that appeal is pending while the motion to lift the stay on her case is before the courts.

A $5 million lawsuit was also filed by Robinson on March 14 against the University of Sudbury over the same alleged historical sexual assaults.

Zaltz is trying to have the stay of proceedings against Laurentian lifted so that LU can be added as a defendant to the lawsuit against the University of Sudbury.

To defend his point of view, he cites a certain section of the CCAA (s. 19(2)(b)(i)) which he considers to be an “exception” in the law.

This could allow an individual to access damages against a “corporate debtor” under the CCAA. These damages should have been awarded by a court in a civil proceeding related to “intentionally inflicted bodily harm or sexual assault”.

In this case, no award has yet been granted to his client, but Zaltz argues that the CCAA section still applies. He said the issue had never been tested in court.

“This is a complaint, which we respectfully submit, which should be addressed outside of this process,” Zaltz said.

Robinson has agreed to immediately withdraw from Laurentian’s CCAA claims process if the courts grant the stay motion.

“Robinson participated in this claims process as a hedge against the possibility that Your Honor would not grant any of the relief sought,” Zaltz said.

“And if Your Honor fails to do so, then obviously his only recovery would be through the claims process and any ensuing plan of compromise.”

Laurentian University argues that Zaltz’s interpretation of the CCAA is incorrect.

“This would mean that any claims of the types mentioned in section 19(2) – which is a broad category of claims including fraud, misappropriation and misrepresentation – could not be determined through a claims process. under the CCAA and could proceed in ordinary litigation,” Laurentian said, in court filings.

“In short, it would create chaos.”

If the courts rule against the use of this section of the CCAA, Zaltz alternatively asks that Laurentian still be added to the lawsuit against the University of Sudbury.

In this case, he asks that the court provide directions “including, but not limited to” limiting the applicability of any judgment in the action to the insurance proceeds (if any) that are determined to be available for LU, not against the current of LU. or future assets, and the means of determining the extent of the insurance.

However, Laurentian was unable to locate the applicable insurance policy from 1979, despite considerable efforts to do so.

Laurentian also said it has no funds that can be tied to self-insurance (where an organization sets aside a reserve of money to be used to cover an unforeseen loss).

“In our view, this remedy is not appropriate in the circumstances because, as Your Honor acknowledged earlier, Laurentian has conducted an extensive search and has not found an insurance policy that could potentially indemnify this claim,” said Laurentian attorney Andrew Hanrahan.

For its part, the University of Sudbury is also asking for the stay of proceedings to be lifted so that Laurentian can be added as a defendant in Robinson’s lawsuit against the U of S.

If the stay of proceedings is lifted, the University of Sudbury says it will file a counterclaim against Laurentian (an action brought by one defendant against another in the same proceeding) if the court orders that LU be added in pursuit of Robinson.

If the court does not order that LU be added as a defendant, the University of Sudbury is seeking to add Laurentian as a third party to the lawsuit.

Like Zaltz, the University of Sudbury also submits that subsection 19(2) of the CCAA applies in this case.

University of Sudbury lawyer Ronald Caza said: “Our position is essentially the same as the plaintiff’s original position, which is…the litigation issues that arise from Ms. Robinson’s alleged sexual assault, do should not be processed in time. the CCAA.

Morawetz said he would take the case on hold and that due to other commitments, it might take him some time to pass judgment.

“Then I will ask for your indulgences,” he said. “It may take me three or four weeks to get there. I will try to do it sooner rather than later.

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