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REF NO.: 164

SUBJECT: Supreme Court supports appeal against Memorial, professors
DATE: Jan. 27, 2006

The Supreme Court of Canada has supported the appeal brought by former student Wanda Young against Memorial Universityand two of its former professors.

Ms. Young was appealing a decision in favour of the professors and Memorial University that was rendered in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador Court of Appeal in 2004.

The matter goes back more than a decade. Ms. Young had sued the university and former Social Work professors Leslie Bella and William Rowe claiming that the university and the professors had breached a “duty of care” owed to students when they reported a suspected case of child abuse based on an academic paper written by her in 1994. In 2003 a jury found in favour of Ms. Young and awarded her $839,400.

However, the university successfully appealed that decision, citing errors made by the jury, Ms. Young’s solicitor and the trial judge.

Ms. Young then appealed that decision to the highest court in the land.

The Supreme Court of Canada heard the appeal in October 2005 and released its decision today, siding with Ms. Young.

“Memorial Universityaccepts the decision and will be guided by its implications,” said Peter Morris of Memorial University.

“The professors believed they were acting in accordance with the obligations all citizens have under law to protect children. They believed, and in this they were supported by the university and the Child Welfare League of Canada, that they had done the right thing. But we now must accept that the Supreme Court ruling changes that.

“Although Ms. Young could have applied for admission to Memorial’s School of Social Work at any time after this incident and been evaluated on the same criteria as all other students, we must accept the Supreme Court’s finding that this matter negatively impacted Ms. Young’s desire to pursue a social work degree.”

Mr. Morris said that Memorial has always regretted the difficulty the matter has caused to Ms. Young.

He also explained that the entire case was undertaken by the university’s insurer and that all the costs of the case are borne by the insurer. “There will be no direct impact on the budget of Memorial as a result of this,” he said.

Dr. Bella retired from Memorial last year. Dr. Rowe left Memorial a number of years ago to take a faculty position in the United States.

Detailed information on the case can be found at http://www.mun.ca/marcomm/young_v_memorial.php

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