Co-workers' brawl ends in stabbing and damage award of nearly $100,000

NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. — A disagreement between two British Columbia longshoremen ended in a brief but violent brawl and a judge says one man owes the other nearly $100,000 for bringing a knife to a fist fight.

The decision, posted Friday on the B.C. Supreme Court website, finds Sadagar Singh Johal was stabbed during dispute on Oct. 20, 2015, at the gates of the Deltaport terminal in Delta.

Justice Murray Blok found defendant Dalvir Singh Mangat owes damages for assault and battery, including $80,000 for Johal's physical and mental injuries.

The award also includes $4,000 in punitive damages and nearly $11,000 for health-care costs, but it's not even one-third of the amount sought by Johal.

The short brawl produced such tangled explanations from Johal and Mangat that a nine-day trial and 10 witnesses were required before Blok ruled "credibility issues" made him cautious about accepting testimony from either man, noting both were suspended for their part in the dispute.

Blok concluded Mangat owes damages because he planned in advance to confront Johal for allegedly spreading rumours, brandished a knife as the fight got heated and stabbed the man in the side as fellow workers tried to pull them apart.

Blok rejected Johal's claim of up to $180,000 for physical and mental injuries, noting a doctor's confirmation of post-traumatic stress disorder but finding Johal based his claim on much more severe injuries.

"Here, the plaintiff is able to enjoy his work; in fact, he likes working," said Blok.

"I accept that the plaintiff is now more withdrawn and irritable, and is hypervigilant in some respects, but he is not incapable of enjoying important aspects of his life, work in particular, as was the case in the authorities cited by the plaintiff."

Blok also rejected Johal's claim of just over $280,000 for lost work hours, noting he had been suspended following the fight.

Johal based his claim on a monthly salary of $16,100 and alleged, but for his injury, he would have been employed for the entire time he was off work during the stabbing, but Blok disagreed.

"Given that the parties were suspended for fighting and given my conclusion that both were active participants in the fight, with one possible exception Mr. Johal cannot lay the responsibility for the suspension at the feet of Mr. Mangat," said Blok.

The judge said punitive damages to punish Mangat for his "reprehensible conduct" are warranted but he cut the award because of charges laid against Mangat, who signed a peace bond agreeing to stay away from Johal.

Mangat's request for reduced damages on the grounds that Johal started the fight is also dispatched by Blok, who found "no basis" for it, repeating both were equal participants in the fight.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 7, 2020.

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