A recent Supreme Court Decision on appeal from Quebec found that under the Quebec Charter a claim for punitive damages could be made against an estate. In de Montigny v. Brossard (Succession), the deceased defendant had strangled his former spouse and drowned his children then committed suicide. The mother and children’s estates and beneficiaries of the respective estates brought a claim against Mr. Brossard’s estate.
The Supreme Court held that an estate can claim exemplary damages against an estate because:
- A successful claim for exemplary damages is not dependent on a successful claim for compensatory damages;
- The exemplary damages are to punish the defendant for the conduct and the fact that the defendant was deceased does not affect the reason for the punishment; and
- The actions by the deceased were both unlawful and intentional.
The court concluded that “awarding exemplary damages seems entirely appropriate in the circumstances to denounce those acts and affirm the importance of the right to life.”
The beneficiaries of the estate also claimed a personal right to exemplary damages. The court went on to find that the heirs to the estate could not sustain a personal claim for exemplary damages as there was no intentional act against them personally by the deceased.
Leaving aside the question of the application of the Quebec Charter to common law jurisdictions, it is still an interesting development.
Lesson Learned: Don’t forget claims for exemplary damages when making a claim on behalf of an estate.
Until next time,