Supreme Court Will Hear Woman Arrested for Not Holding Handrail

(Bela Kosoian, taking legal action to S.C.C.)

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The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear Bela Kosoian, a woman detained in Laval, Quebec, for refusing to hold a hand rail.

(1) Backstory of the Case
This is a a bizarre story, starting in 2009, of a woman in a Laval, QC, subway station, refused instructions from transit officers to hold a handrail while on an escalator.

When transit officers attempted to write her a ticket for the refusal to obey, she refused to identify herself. Identity is rather important in enforcing tickets. This led to her being detained for about a half hour, after which point she did reveal her name.

Kosoian was issued 2 tickets from that incident, one for $100, and one for $320. She contested both, and they were eventually thrown out.

Since then, she has taken legal action against the city, the STM, and a staff member. After a series of legal twists, it will now be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada.

(2) Quebec Court of Justice — Trial Court
Kosoian took legal action against: (a) the City of Laval; (b) Fabio Camacho — one of the officers; and (c) the Transportation Company of Montreal — aka the STM. She sought $24,000 for moral damages, pain, suffering, inconvenience and exemplary damages, and another $45,000 for moral and punitive damages for the fault committed by its agent.

Kosoian submitted a VERY LENGTHY list and description of physical and psychological trauma suffered as a resukt of being detained for about half an hour. On the surface, it seems like malingering.

Section 49 of the Canadian Charter was invoked, which states:

CHAPTER V
SPECIAL AND INTERPRETATIVE PROVISIONS

49. Any unlawful interference with any right or freedom recognized by this Charter entitles the victim to obtain the cessation of such interference and compensation for the moral or material prejudice resulting therefrom.
In case of unlawful and intentional interference, the tribunal may, in addition, condemn the person guilty of it to punitive damages.

For it’s part, the STM Referenced By-Law R-036

” BY-LAW R-036

“REGULATIONS RESPECTING THE SAFETY AND BEHAVIOR STANDARDS OF PERSONS IN ROAD EQUIPMENT AND BUILDINGS OPERATED BY OR FOR THE MONTREAL TRANSPORTATION CORPORATION”

[…]

SECTION III – GENERAL PROVISIONS

3. Subject to the law and regulations, any person has the right to use the public transportation system of the Company in comfort and safety.

Subsection I – Citizenship

4. In or on a building or rolling stock, no person shall

(a) impede or hinder the free movement of persons, including standing still, lurking, strolling, laying down or carrying a bag, container or other object;

(b) endanger the safety of persons or rolling stock, in particular by depositing or carrying a bag, container or other object;

[…]

e) to disobey a directive or pictogram posted by the Society;

[…]

h) to delay or interfere with the work of a servant of the Corporation; “

But according to the STM staff, it is not the potential safety infraction that led to Bela Kosoian being arrested. Rather, it was her refusal to identity herself when being written a ticket.

In August 2015, a Quebec Court rejected the claim. It stated that the officers acted reasonably, and that the situation was largely self-inflicted

(3) Motion for Leave, Quebec Court of Appeal
Kosoian sought leave to go to the Quebec Court of Appeal.

On December 2015, in an extremely brief ruling, the Quebec Court of Appeal allowed the appeal to proceed, dismissing a motion from the Respondents.

(4) Appeal, Quebec Court of Appeal
In a 2-1 split decision, Kosoian lost her appeal at the Quebec Court of Appeals. 2 Justices ruled that the STM and its staff had acted reasonably. In dissent, the other Justice says he would have set aside the Trial ruling, and ordered $15,000 in damages.

[ 1 ] The appellant appeals against a judgment rendered on August 11, 2015, by the Court of Quebec, District of Laval (the Honorable Denis Le Reste), dismissing the appellant’s motion to institute damages for damages .
[ 2 ] For the reasons of Dutil and Vauclair JJ., THE COURT :
[ 3 ] REJECTS the appeal with court costs.
[ 4 ] For other reasons, Schrager JA would have allowed the appeal, set aside the judgment at trial, granted the motion to institute proceedings, ordered the respondents, jointly and severally, to pay the appellant the sum of 15,000 $ with interest and the additional indemnity since the summons at first instance, as well as legal costs at first instance and on appeal, and stated that between the respondents, the Montreal Transit Corporation will have to assume the entire conviction.

(5) Supreme Court of Canada
This leads things to where they are today. Once again, the Supreme Court granting leave to appeal just now.

The motion for an extension of time and the application for leave to appeal is granted. The application for leave to appeal to the judgment of theCourt of Appeal of Quebec (Montreal), Number 500-09-025644-154, 2017 QCCA 1919 (CanLII) , date December 5, 2017, is awarded with costs in the case. The schedule for serving and filing materials will be set by the Registrar .

An interesting split so far in the courts. In Kosoian’s favour:
-Supreme Court of Canada, leave to appeal
-Quebec Court of appeal, dissenting opinion
-Quebec Court of Appeal, motion for leave

And against Kosoian:
-Quebec Court of Appeal, majority opinion
-Quebec Trial Court
-Laval ruling which dismissed the original tickets.

Personally, I see blame on both sides here. While ticketing her for refusing to hold a handrail does seem excessive, the escalation of the problems resulted from Kosoian herself. She did refuse to identify herself when being ticketed, which for the STM was a legitimate demand. Also, her claims of emotional and psychological damages seem grossly exaggerated, and manipulated to seek a huge damages amount.

The Supreme Court Appeal Panel will now decide the case.

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