Winnipeg paramedic files counterclaim in defamation suit filed by firefighter

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A Winnipeg paramedic has filed a counterclaim in a lawsuit brought forward by a city firefighter.

The initial statement of claim was filed on Aug. 9, 2021 by Winnipeg firefighter Kelcey French. It alleges paramedic Nishanth Jayaranjan launched a ‘defamatory campaign’ and accused him of racism following an emergency call in Oct. 2020 involving an Indigenous woman.

Jayaranjan filed a statement of defence and counterclaim on Oct. 13.

In it, Jayaranjan denies every allegation in the statement of claim, and specifically denies that the plaintiff is entitled to the relief claim of $500,000 in defamation damages and $100,000 in punitive damages.

French’s claim alleges he was the target of a ‘defamatory campaign’ by Jayaranjan, stemming from an early-morning emergency call on Oct. 7, 2020 in Winnipeg, when an Indigenous woman was suffering from a self-inflicted stab wound to the neck.

According to French’s claim, he attended to the woman, and found the wound was not actively bleeding. His claim said she was able to stand up and walk to the stretcher. French was told by a lieutenant to accompany the woman in the ambulance with the paramedics, including Jayaranjan.

In the counterclaim, Jayaranjan said French did not assess the patient, and said an injury like that could not be assessed in the field. The claim said the patient was placed onto the stretcher as a trauma triage patient under Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service (WFPS) protocols.

Jayaranjan’s counterclaim said he ordered French “at least three times” to enter the ambulance to assist the patient, but he failed to comply until the lieutenant on scene instructed him to.

The defendant denies being hostile and aggressive towards the complainant, saying it was the other way around. Jayaranjan’s counterclaim said he did not make any attacks against French in the ambulance, in front of the patient, or in front of his paramedic partner. The counterclaim did say when they arrived to Health Sciences Centre, “out of frustration” over French refusing to assist with the patient while being offloaded, Jayaranjan called French profanities and a “keyboard warrior.”

Jayaranjan said he made “multiple attempts” to meet with French to apologize and resolve the matter, but French refused.

French had claimed Jayaranjan falsified the patient care report to make it appear that care was not promptly provided to the patient, but Jayaranjan denies that, saying if French provided any care, he would have also been required to complete a patient care report.

Both filed respectful workplace complaints against each other following the Oct. 7 incident.

The events also prompted a third-party review of the incident.

Jayaranjan admitted to sending a “private and confidential” email to WFPS Chief John Lane about the incident, and said other “relevant” City of Winnipeg human resources officials and a union representative were copied on the email. He said this was part of an ongoing complaint stemming from social media posts in June 2020, and was part of additional information he provided over the ensuing months relating to “racism within the WFPS.”

Jayaranjan believes French’s “refusal to provide assistance and his hostile behaviour” was directly motivated by the complaints he had previously brought forward, saying French, as a union executive, would have been privy to this information and aware he was the source of the complaints.

The defendant said as a result of the defamation, he has been unable to return to work at the City of Winnipeg, has suffered considerable damage to his reputation, and said he and his family have suffered mental distress and humiliation.

The counterclaim is requesting relief, including judgement in an amount as is determined by the court, special damages, and an order instructing French to refrain from making, publishing or disseminating defamatory statements. It is also requesting French publicly apologize to Jayaranjan in writing, and is requesting punitive, aggravated and/or exemplary damages.

None of the allegations in the statement of claim or statement of defence and counterclaim have been tested in court.

-With files from CTV’s Danton Unger.