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Sorry, buddy — you can't sue a woman for getting her pregnant

The Ontario Court of Appeal ruled against a man who claimed he'd been damaged by the birth of his unplanned child.

pregnancy test

Photo, Erik Putz.

So you meet a guy, you have sex, you get pregnant and you decide to keep the child. Then… the guy tries to sue you for $4 million?

This happened to a Toronto woman, who this week was awarded some of the costs for fighting a lawsuit brought to the courts by buddy, claiming damages on the basis that her decision messed with his desire to have a child on his own schedule.

The man, a Toronto doctor identified in court documents only as PP (you get the initials you deserve) attempted to sue the woman (identified as DD) he’d had sex with sans condom for deciding to carry their unplanned baby to term. PP and DD had a “fling” for two months in 2014, during which time she assured him she was taking the birth control pill. But when she revealed she was pregnant and that PP was indeed the father, PP accused DD of lying about her contraceptive use and ruining his chance to have a child when the “time was right” with a woman of his choosing.

So PP filed a lawsuit, brought to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice last year, which claimed DD “deceived him into having recreational sexual intercourse from which a child was born,” and that she should pay him $4 million in damages. His claim was dismissed.

PP brought it to the Ontario Court of Appeal, where a three-judge panel reached a unanimous decision against him. Justice Paul Rouleau wrote the decision, which was delivered on Thursday, and which boiled PP’s claims of damages down to “emotional upset, broken dreams, possible disruption to his lifestyle and career, and a potential reduction in future earnings,” all thanks to a child he didn’t want. Once again, PP was shot down.

The judges deliberated on case law, including one case of a man who poked holes in his condom and didn’t tell the woman, which was non-applicable to this case, Rouleau wrote, because “not wearing a condom did not increase the appellant’s risk of serious physical injury… Clearly, there are profound physical and psychological effects on a mother undergoing a pregnancy that do not apply to the father of the child.”

“I see no basis on which to impose liability on the mother for any net negative impact (he) may consider that he has suffered due to his having fathered the child,” Justice Rouleau wrote in the decision, which dismissed the case and awarded DD $8,000 to cover some of her legal costs.

In many ways, it was a “feminist ruling,” says Sarah Conlin, partner in the family law group at Lerners in Toronto. Had Justice Rouleau ruled in favour of PP, Conlin says, it would have “set a dangerous precedent” for parents of children born of unwanted pregnancies.

“It would open the floodgates to a lot of men coming forward and trying to do what this doctor tried to do,” says Conlin. The decision “signals the court wants to step in and try to protect mothers’ autonomy over their bodies.”

To wrap this whole thing up (pun intended), the lesson to take away is this: If you want to make sure you don’t have a child with a woman at the wrong time, BYOC — bring your own contraception.

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