Karen Armstrong v. Colin Ward

(Ontario) (Civil) (By Leave)


Torts - Negligence - Standard of care - Appeals - Standard of review - Did the trial judge err by articulating the standard of care in terms of goals rather than steps? - Did the trial judge err by failing to consider and exclude non-negligent causes of the appellant’s injury? - Did the trial judge err by considering factual causation before determining that Dr. Ward breached the standard of care? - Did the trial judge err by failing to find that Dr. Ward met the standard of care? - Did the Court of Appeal apply the correct standard of review to the trial judge’s decision?


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In February 2010, Dr. Ward removed Ms. Armstrong’s colon using laparoscopic surgery. The surgery appeared to have been uneventful and there was no sign that Ms. Armstrong had been injured. Over the next several weeks, however, she developed increasingly more concerning post-operative abdominal pain. A CT scan revealed that her ureter was blocked with scar tissue, causing severe damage to her left kidney. She was required to undergo a second surgery to remove her kidney in October 2010. She sued Dr. Ward, alleging that he caused the scar tissue that formed the blockage in her ureter by improperly using a cauterizing device during the colectomy, known as a LigaSure. Ms. Armstrong contended that Dr. Ward negligently touched or came within two millimetres of her ureter with the LigaSure during the colectomy procedure, causing a thermal injury. The trial judge held that Dr. Ward was liable in negligence for the damage caused to Ms. Armstrong’s ureter. This decision was overturned on appeal.

Lower Court Rulings

April 16, 2018
Ontario Superior Court of Justice

2018 ONSC 2439, CV-15-0614
Respondent found to be liable in negligence for applicant’s injuries
December 6, 2019
Court of Appeal for Ontario

2019 ONCA 963, C65404
Respondent’s appeal granted; Applicant’s action dismissed