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Surfer awarded more than $75K for 2x4 attack that drove him from Tofino

Court ruling after ‘not happy’ resident smashed up car revving outside his home in the early morning
The entrance to Castaways thrift store on Tofino’s Campbell Street and Fourth. Castaways closed permanently in Nov. 2018. (Westerly file photo)

Nearly five years later, former resident and surfer Clayton Giesbrecht was awarded $75,805 in damages for an “unprovoked, malicious, and uncontrolled” assault in Tofino.

The attack, administered outside Castaways Value Store on Jan. 22, 2018, left him in constant physical pain and drove him away from the community he loved, according to a B.C. Supreme Court ruling released on Sept. 23.

In the early morning, Giesbrecht was sitting in his car in the parking lot of Castaways to use the Internet. He told the court that he had an arrangement with Castaways that he could use their internet in exchange for helping out at the store.

When he finished, he testified he backed his car to a nearby spot beside Tofino resident Ole Marvin Hansen’s house. Giesbrecht said when he tried to go forward, his car would not move.

“Being a cold morning, Mr. Giesbrecht thought his car would not move because the engine was cold. He sat in that spot revving his engine in an effort to warm it up,” Honourable Madam Justice Murray wrote in her ruling.

Hansen was woken by the loud revving of the engine. He got out of bed “not happy”, got dressed and went outside, according to the court document.

“On his way out the door, he grabbed a piece of wood similar to a 2x4. Wielding the piece of wood like a baseball bat, Mr. Hansen repeatedly struck Mr. Giesbrecht’s car, shattering the front and rear windshields and denting the window frames. Mr. Hansen then struck the driver’s side window, breaking it and hitting Mr. Giesbrecht’s arm, causing injury,” reads Murray’s court ruling.

Hansen pleaded guilty to the criminal charge of mischief and served a term of probation, according to the court document.

In the civil lawsuit, Giesbrecht sought an award of $80,000 for general damages for his pain and suffering. Giesbrecht told the court that he is no longer able to engage in activities that he loves like dirt biking and suffers nightmares about Hansen chasing him.

“Because of the trauma of this assault, Mr. Giesbrecht moved from Tofino, the community that he loved and felt a part of, to a town where there is no surfing, which is his passion, and where he has no sense of belonging,” wrote Murray.

Hansen submitted that the appropriate amount would be $6,000, arguing that Giesbrecht suffered only a soft tissue injury and that there was no objective medical evidence saying otherwise.

Murray disagreed and rejected Hansen’s arguments that Giesbrecht failed to mitigate his personal injury by not attending physiotherapy. Giesbrecht explained to the court that he did not go because it was in Port Alberni, about a two-hour drive from Tofino, and he did not have a car to get there.

Murray went on to award Giesbrecht $60,000 in general damages. To compensate for the mental distress caused by Hansen’s acts, Murray awarded Giesbrecht $3,000 in aggravated damages. Another $8,000 was awarded in punitive damages.

“This award is intended to convey to Mr. Hansen the message that this type of behaviour will not be condoned,” wrote Murray.

Giesbrecht also sought damages of $15,250 for past wage loss and $200,000 for loss of earning capacity. Murray made no award for damages related to work stating “evidence regarding Mr. Giesbrecht’s ability to work following the assault is unclear.”

Murray ordered Hansen to pay $2,197.55 owing under the Health Care Cost Recovery Act (HCCRA) and $2,252.69 to Crime Victims Assistance Program (CVAP).

“The CVAP claim includes the cost of moving Mr. Giesbrecht away from Tofino,” wrote Murray.

Giesbrecht testified to a course of harassment by people in the community, including Hansen, following the assault, which caused him to feel unsafe in Tofino. According to the ruling, the harassment included threats by local mechanics who worked with Hansen. It also includes Hansen driving his excavator to Giesbrecht’s bike shop and waving at him.

“I am satisfied on all of the evidence that as a result of the attack Mr. Giesbrecht’s feeling of safety and security was affected,” said Murray.

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