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Jane Doe v Metropolitan Toronto Police (1998), 39 OR (3d) 487, 160 DLR (4th) 697 (Ont Ct Gen Div)


Plaintiff sued the police after being attacked by serial rapist Paul Callow
** Primary claim was based on failure to warn


Did the police have a duty to warn that there was a serial rapist targeting women of a certain profile in a particular area of the city? Did the police have a duty to protect such individuals?

Is there a private law duty of care?


A legitimate decision not to warn does not excuse a failure to protect.

Negligence law includes a private law duty of care with regards to the police.


1. Decision not to warn:
** Police decision was not policy; it was likely because the police believed that women in the area would become “hysterical” (as the police noted) and jeopardize the investigation;
** Also Callow’s attacks were not seen to be as violent as previous offenders (where the police did warn the community)
** Judge noted that warning should have been given to women who were at risk
** If plaintiff had known about the serial rapist in her neighbourhood, she could have taken steps to protect herself
** Police failed in their duty to protect

2. Negligence:
** There was foreseeability of risk
** Facts about the crime committed by Callow support the requisite knowledge on the part of the police sufficient to establish a private law duty of care. E.g. area in which previous crimes had occurred, floor of building, type of victims, etc.
** The harm was foreseeable and a special relationship of proximity existed
** Yes, there is a private law duty of care

3. Do the pleadings support a breach of the private law duty of care
** In certain circumstances the police have a duty to warn citizens of foreseeable harm. Some situations are possible where the police can reasonably NOT warn.
** However, a legitimate decision not to warn does not excuse a failure to protect. Duty to protect remains, but has to be accomplished by other means
** Plaintiff claimed that defendants required:
*** 1. That she be warned of the impending danger; Perhaps this was enough; Judges were looking for a high standard of care, just an adequate standard of care
*** 2. In the absence of such a warning, that she be adequately protected
*** The police did neither
**In this case, the plaintiff has established a private law duty of care


Plaintiff awarded 220 000$ in damages for her claim in negligence (plaintiff’s rights under s.7 and s.15 of the Charter were also violated; but no additional damages awarded).

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