The University of Ottawa and a Chelsea, Que., doctor charged with sexual assault and voyeurism are facing a lawsuit seeking $210 million in damages.
The lawsuit, recently filed as a proposed class-action suit by Flaherty McCarthy LLP, is seeking $100 million from the university and $110 million from Dr. Vincent Nadon, who worked for University of Ottawa Health Services (UOHS) until earlier this year.
Since January 2018, Nadon has been charged by Ottawa police with 41 criminal counts of voyeurism and 53 criminal counts of sexual assault. The 94 charges involve 51 alleged victims.
The statement of claim for the civil lawsuit, filed June 27 in Toronto court, alleges Nadon breached his duty of care to his patients by committing sexual assault and taking “intimate photographic or video images” of them without consent. The document also accuses the University of Ottawa of negligence.
The one claimant named in the lawsuit – a woman and former uOttawa student who alleges the manner in which Nadon treated her during a pap smear amounts to sexual assault – hopes it might present a way for other alleged victims “who feel that they’ve been wronged … to fight back,” Candace Mak, a lawyer with Flaherty McCarthy said on Thursday.
“So many times, victims are in a very lonely, isolated spot and shining a spotlight on that ensures that, if they so choose, they can speak up for themselves,” Mak said in a phone interview.
The claims in the lawsuit and the criminal charges against Nadon have not been proven in court. The civil lawsuit has not yet been certified by a judge.
News of the proposed class-action suit was first reported late Tuesday. Since then, Mak says “several” other people have contacted her law firm over the past two days but declined to say whether these individuals will be joining the class action.
“I can tell you we have had other people contact us … and it’s people who obviously have a lot of concerns,” she said in a phone interview on Thursday.
Nadon was removed from his position at the UOHS Rideau Street clinic after he was first charged by Ottawa police. Those two initial charges stemmed from a complaint submitted to police by a different woman who had been seen by Nadon for a medical appointment in January.
That young woman accused the 57-year-old doctor of filming her without her consent or knowledge during her pap smear. Police laid the other charges against Nadon in February and in May.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario later suspended Nadon from practising medicine as part of its investigation into his alleged misconduct. The suspension was effective May 17.
Nadon remains in custody at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre. He appeared briefly in court on the criminal charges on Thursday morning via video link; his next appearance is scheduled for July 12.
The civil lawsuit’s statement of claim is asking a judge to rule that the University of Ottawa is “vicariously liable” for Nadon’s alleged misconduct and the “injuries and damages” he allegedly caused to the class-action members.
The statement also claims the university was negligent in “the management, administration, supervision and control of the University of Ottawa Health Services Clinic at various locations” and in “the employment, management, training and supervision of Nadon.”
In a statement, a spokesperson for the University of Ottawa said the school “does not manage, operate or supervise the services provided by UOHS.”
“UOHS is an independent service provider contracted to offer health services to uOttawa students and employees,” Isabelle Mailloux Pulkinghorn said in an email on Thursday. “It also provides health services to people in the community.”
“The University intends to defend this action.”
Mak said her firm stands by naming the University of Ottawa in the statement of claim and that there is time, as the case proceeds, to name UOHS in the suit.
“We named the university because from a student’s standpoint … a student should feel that they are safe, that they should be able to go to their clinic located on campus – with the name ‘University of Ottawa’ in it – and expect and receive superior service,” Mak said.
Mak said the process to certify a class-action suit could take one or two years.