Last month, the B.C. Supreme Court rejected an order made by the School Protection Program’s lawyer to have a former student’s sexual assault by a teacher claim against an educator in School District 52 heard by a judge only, instead of a jury.
The case in subject is surrounding ex-special needs teacher and athletic coach, Michael Kolesar, who plead guilty in criminal court of sexually assaulting a former special needs student, as well as another female student.
The special needs student, who is now the plaintiff in the case, has sued Kolesar and the school board for damages caused by the assaults that took place while the female was between the ages of thirteen and sixteen in the school board’s Life Skill Program. During this time, Kolesar was the female’s special education teacher. The plaintiff is claiming that during that period the board was negligent and vicariously liable. Because Kolesar is not defending himself in the civil action, the school board’s lawyer is considered the defendant in this case.
The School Protection Program’s argument as written in the court document, for not having a jury was that the issues “are of an intricate or complex character” and that the “extra time and cost involved in a jury trial is disproportionate to the amount involved” as the program’s lawyer argued that if the plaintiff is successful on the question of liability, the damages awarded would likely be less than $100,000.
The plaintiff was able to point to another similar case that was already tried by a jury. Due to precedent, the school boards application was dismissed.
Additionally, the plaintiff’s lawyer disagreed with the school board’s lawyer, claiming if the plaintiff won, she would be entitles to an award of around $300,000.
“Accordingly, I am not at all pessimistic about the jury’s ability to decide the questions which the defense says are too complex in this litigation,” said the judge in the court document.
When asked about the effort to have the case heard by a judge only, school board chair, Tina Last said that the board has no comment about the case while its before the courts and that the litigation is actually being overseen by another government department, so board members are not actually involved in the case.
The trial is set to proceed on June.18, 2012, with a possibility of the trial’s venue changing from Victoria to Prince Rupert.