A woman who overdosed on crystal methamphetamine in rural Saskatchewan has successfully sued the man who gave her the drug, likely making it the first court win of its kind in the country.
"It was frustrating not having anything done through the criminal system," said 23-year-old Sandy Bergen, who has been drug- and alcohol-free since the incident in her hometown of Biggar in 2004.
"Financially, I'm not really going to gain from it. But it's a way of holding him responsible."
Bergen and her parents, Stan and Georgina, launched the negligence suit against Clinton Davey in 2005, asking for more than $50,000 in medical costs and other damages.
Bergen suffered a heart attack during the overdose and spent 11 days in a coma.
Now living in Saskatoon, she does public speaking events at high schools about the dangers of crystal meth.
Last Friday, a Court of Queen's Bench Judge in Saskatoon agreed to strike Davey's statement of defence in the case, which basically finds him in default. A hearing will now be scheduled to determine what amount the court will award.
Bergen learned about the win Monday from her lawyer.
"It means we've effectively won. We proceed as if we were never opposed," said Bergen's lawyer, Stuart Busse.
Busse says he could not find another such decision in his research.
"To my knowledge, it's the first case that's gone anywhere against a drug dealer," he said.
Busse asked the court to strike Davey's statement of defence and find him in contempt of court for not answering questions about where he got his drugs.
The unknown drug supplier, John Doe, was also named as a defendant in the lawsuit.
In court documents, Davey said he could not remember the name of his drug supplier, although he could recall other details about the night of Bergen's overdose.
Busse said he believes Davey received threats, so he was likely fearing for his safety when he refused to answer questions about his drug supplier.
"As a general rule, you don't rat," said Busse.
Davey did admit he gave Bergen crystal meth -- but said the cash she gave him was for cigarettes, not the drug.
Bergen said that's not the case. She gave him $40 for the meth even though the cost was $30. Already suffering from the sweats and hand pain of a heart attack, she was feeling too ill to demand the change.
An addict since 18, Bergen said she hadn't smoked meth for about eight months when Davey offered her the drug that night. She was weak and upset about having to testify in an upcoming sexual assault trial.
Davey's grandmother, Dalis Davey, was also named in the civil suit because the overdose happened in her home. But Busse said he's considering dropping her as a defendant.
He said if the drug supplier is identified in the future, he can still be held liable.
Davey, with no current address, may not have much money, said Busse. But his assets can be seized.
"The point is he caused this problem, and he should have to pay," Busse said.
Bergen said she doesn't expect much money but hopes to get enough to cover her legal expenses.
The purpose of the suit was to hold Davey accountable, she said, and put some fear into the drug trade.
"If you can take the financial gain away from them, drug dealing is not going to be that appealing."
The case could pave the way for similar lawsuits across Canada.
Busse said he has already spoken to a woman from Nova Scotia who wants sue the drug dealer responsible for her son's overdose.
There have already been similar cases in the United States, where more than a dozen states have passed a Drug Dealer Liability Act.
source: Saskatoon Star-Phoenix