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Court awards Saskatchewan man $6.7M 14 years after assault on camping trip

YORKTON, Sask. — A Saskatchewan man has been awarded more than $6.7 million in damages nearly 14 years after an assault during a camping trip left him with a life-changing brain injury.

Court documents say Robert Mus was 17 years old when he and some friends visited Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba in July 2006.

A 2008 trial heard a camper in another group struck Mus on the right side of his head with a piece of fire wood.

Tyler Kozakowski was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison for aggravated assault.

Mus sued Kozakowski for damages in 2008, but the defendant did not show up for the civil trial last year and presented no defence.

A decision last month by Queen's Bench Justice Michael Tochor noted Mus suffered numerous strokes, was in a vegetative state for a time and had to undergo intensive rehabilitation.

Mus had to relearn how to control his bodily functions, hold his head up and speak, the judge said.

The injured teen remained at the Wascana Rehabilitation Centre for six months after the attack. He then returned to live at home with his mother, where he remains.

Tochor noted Kozakowski's criminal sentence is "now well behind him."

"However, from the moment of the assault, the life of Mr. Mus forever changed in almost unimaginable ways."

A 2014 medical report said Mus got easily tired while walking, remained "somewhat childlike" and that "there were concerns in regards to his social vulnerability."

During the civil trial, the plaintiff's mother elaborated on the assault's lasting effects.

"She pointed out Mr. Mus reached his maximum level of recovery and she relayed her concerns his condition will deteriorate," Tochor said in his May 27 decision on damages.

"She testified his mobility has declined over time and his speech is becoming less distinguishable."

The amount awarded includes more than $1 million for past loss of income and nearly $4.5 million for future lost income, as well as the cost of care, housekeeping and other items.

Mus' lawyer, David Rusnak, said there were several reasons why it took the case so long to get to trial.

For instance, he said medical witnesses in cases like these need to observe plaintiffs long enough that they can determine whether they will recover, and to what extent.  

"Lawsuits that have an injury component as substantial as Mr. Mus' often take a considerable period of time," Rusnak said.

He said Monday that his client had not authorized him to provide a statement on his behalf.

— By Lauren Krugel in Calgary

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 8, 2020

The Canadian Press

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