Compensation for sexual assault “could be quite a challenge,” says King’s College president

The University of King's College Halifax.  (Dave Laughlin/CBC - photo credit)

The University of King’s College Halifax. (Dave Laughlin/CBC – photo credit)

After a report documenting allegations of sexual abuse and assault by a former University of King’s College professor, the school said some of the victims may be entitled to compensation.

But how does this compensation process work? Who pays the severance pay? How tall can they be? And how might the payouts affect King’s financially?

Wayne John Hankey, a longtime professor at King’s and neighboring Dalhousie University in Halifax, was charged in 2021 with sexual assault, gross indecency and indecent assault in incidents involving three male complainants which allegedly took place between 1977 and 1988.

Hankey died in 2022 before any of the cases went to trial.

King’s hired Toronto law firm Rubin Thomlinson to investigate and produce a final report, which was released Wednesday, detailing many other incidents not covered by the criminal charges.

Robert Kurz/CBC

Robert Kurz/CBC

The report recommended the university make amends – which could include monetary compensation – and settle all legal action. A civil suit has been filed naming King’s, Dalhousie, the Anglican Diocesan Synod of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and Hankey’s estate. Hankey was also an Anglican priest.

King’s President William Lahey said the university is interested in compensating victims where warranted.

“We must take responsibility by making reparations to those injured, including fair and just compensation,” he said in a public address on Wednesday.

How many victims?

At this point, no one knows how many victims and survivors may receive financial compensation as more people with knowledge of incidents may come forward. The university is asking anyone who has not yet spoken to investigators to contact them by the end of April 14.

Liam O’Reilly, an attorney for Wagner’s law firm handling the civil suit against King’s, said the list of incidents is likely to grow.

“When you have a case like this or a matter of historical sexual misconduct like this, the people who come forward are usually just the tip of the iceberg,” he told the CBCs Information tomorrow Halifax on Thursday. “In turn, in our history of handling these matters, we expect more people to come forward.”

Who will pay?

Depending on when the incidents occurred and whether the university’s insurance policy covered the crime at the time, payouts could be made by the insurance company or King’s.

Rob Talach, an attorney with Beckett Personal Injuries Lawyers in London, Ontario, says many insurance companies have reduced their coverage since the 1980s.

“So we’re saying, look, we’re not going to cover criminal activity and we’re definitely not going to cover sexual assault,” he said.

Lahey said it’s possible that the university’s insurance policies don’t cover some of the incidents.

When asked whether the university’s financial stability could be threatened by payouts, Lahey said in an interview on Thursday: “It could well be a challenge for us. Contrary to what some people think, we are not a wealthy institution.

“We are very aware that we are working with tax money, student money and donor money. So when I say ‘just and reasonable’, that also applies to the university. We have a responsibility to be good stewards of resources. We have to work with that.”

How much compensation is typical?

Lahey said the university cannot decide how much money victims can receive. He said that this was a conversation that would take place between the school, the complainants, their lawyers, the insurance company’s lawyers and the university’s lawyers, and that the school might ask for help from a mediator.

Talach, who has worked on sex abuse and assault lawsuits, including the Hockey Canada scandal involving members of the World Junior Hockey Team in 2018, said damages for cases that go to court tend to be higher than those Amounts resulting from settlements through mediation.

The amounts depend on “how bad the abuse was, how long it lasted, what the relationship was like, you know, the power imbalance between the parties, age.”

Talach said that for the most egregious cases decided in court, overall damages can range from $250,000 to $300,000, while non-penetrative touch cases would likely range under $100,000.

Doug Husby/CBC

Doug Husby/CBC

For settlements reached through third-party reconciliation, “the numbers can get pretty low,” Talach said, since they often don’t include compensation for economic losses.

Economic loss can make it difficult for a survivor to continue an education or keep a job because of the attack, and Talach said in some court cases, juries have awarded more than $1 million in the economic loss category alone.

“The real benefit to institutions from running these third-party compensation schemes is that they’re going to say, ‘Hey, look, here’s the pain and suffering scale. We’ll give you this. We’re really not going to suffer economic loss. You know, take it or leave it.'”

Talach has one piece of advice for anyone doing a third-party assessment: “If you’re going to respond, have someone in your corner. And of course they don’t have to respond. You can still sue independently and go for the broader outcome.”

Dalhousie and the Anglican Diocese

Dalhousie University, where Hankey also worked for decades, issued a statement to the school community Wednesday night apologizing for Hankey’s behavior and saying that it will “to the extent possible make reparations to affected individuals who are part of our Dalhousie.” -community were. “

When asked whether those redress could include monetary compensation, university spokeswoman Janet Bryson said in a statement that Dalhousie “cannot predict the results of the redress for those who may contact us, or how they may be.” want to proceed and what the result might be.

“For those who do report to the University, we remain committed to focusing on them as individuals, supporting their needs as much as possible and ensuring we fully grasp the important lessons and learnings from these traumatic events. “

The Anglican Diocese did not respond to a request for an interview about whether it would settle the civil case in which it is named.

Lahey said the university spent about $300,000 on Rubin Thomlinson’s legal work, including fees for the university’s attorneys, but the bill is expected to continue to rise.



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