Eddie and Jessica Maurice and their two daughters can focus on other issues now that a $100,000 lawsuit filed against Eddie by a man who committed a crime on the family’s property was dismissed in Court of Queen’s Bench on Jan. 16.
“We are really looking forward to a trip to Disneyland with our kids — we have been putting that off due to all of the court drama and everything that has been happening,” Jessica said. “That will be the next big thing we will put our energy towards.”
On Feb. 24, 2018, Ryan Randy Watson and a co-accused drove onto the Maurice property south of Okotoks at around 5:40 a.m. and rummaged through the Maurices’ vehicles. Maurice, who was home with his one-year-old daughter, gave a verbal warning and then fired a warning shot into the ground, which ricocheted and struck Watson in the wrist.
Maurice was charged with gun offences and his court appearances received national attention with hundreds of people supporting his right to defend his home.
All charges against Maurice were dropped.
Watson later pleaded guilty to mischief and failure to comply with a court order at Okotoks provincial court on Feb. 28, 2019. He was sentenced to 45 days in custody, but was released after receiving credit for time served.
Watson filed a lawsuit against Maurice for $100,000 in September for personal damages. Maurice then filed a counterclaim of $150,000.
After the Jan.16 decision, the Maurices decided to walk away from the countersuit to put the matter behind them once and for all.
It’s been a long battle for the Maurices, who vowed to fight for their rights from the get-go on Feb. 24, 2018.
“From the start of this, we stood up from the start of this for my rights against criminals on my property, stood up for my rights about being sued by a criminal,” Eddie said in an interview after court proceedings in Calgary. “Without standing up for my rights, none of this would have happened.
“We wouldn’t have been able to do this without the support of our family and our community.”
It was a clear win, according to Maurice’s lawyer Scott Chimuk.
“What happened in court today is we won,” Chimuk said. “The allegations against Mr. Maurice that were brought by Mr. Nelson (Stephen Nelson, Watson’s lawyer) were dropped. There is no civil suit, there is no lawsuit – it is over.”
He said the suit against Maurice should never have been filed.
“This case should not ever have been brought in the first instance — in my view it is absolutely outrageous,” Chimuk said. “The fact a private citizen, who is defending his family and their home, was sued by a convicted criminal with respect to injuries that criminal allegedly incurred is absolutely outrageous and affront to justice and I am glad that justice was done today.”
Chimuk said while he was confident his client was not ever going to lose the suit filed by Watson, the passing of Bill 27 expedited the matter.
Bill 27, the Trespass Statutes (Protecting Law-abiding Property Owners) bill was passed in the Alberta Legislature on Dec. 5. One of the stipulations of the bill is a victim of crimes, who takes reasonable, legal actions to protect their property, cannot be sued by those committing the crime.
“The advantage of Bill 27 was it allowed us to bring a summary application to get rid of this sooner than later,” Chimuk said. “I am fully confident that this was a vexatious and frivolous lawsuit.
“We would have won in any event. But without Bill 27, it probably would taken us much longer to win and it would have put the Maurice family though an arduous process.”
Eddie said he was relieved it was over.
“It’s been a very long two-year process for us as a family, it affected our kids, finally we can just move on,” Eddie said. “We can move forward.”
Following is the timeline of the Eddie Maurice case:
- Feb. 26, 2018 – Edouard Maurice is arrested and charged with aggravated assault, pointing a firearm and careless use of a firearm after firing warning shots on his property around 5:30 a.m. Feb. 24, 2018 when he found two trespassers rummaging through vehicles. One of the bullets struck Ryan Randy Watson, one of the prowlers, in the wrist area. Watson is charged with trespassing by night, mischief to property, theft over $5,000 from a motor vehicle, possession of methamphetamine and two counts of failure to comply with probation.
- March 9, 2018 – Maurice appears in court for the first time and is greeted by cheers of support from a crowd outside Okotoks Provincial Court.
- March 15, 2018 – Stephanie Ann Martens, of Okotoks, is the third person charged in the incident. She is charged with trespassing at night, theft under $5,000 and mischief.
- April 6, 2018 – Maurice’s case is held over for two weeks to allow time for the defence team to receive disclosure.
- April 20, 2018 – Defence attorney Tonii Roulston requests to hold over Maurice’s case for a third time, saying she is still waiting on integral pieces of disclosure.
- May 4, 2018 – Maurice appears in court for a fourth time and the family reveals he had been home alone with their baby at the time of the prowling incident.
- May 18, 2018 – Maurice’s case is adjourned to June 22, 2018 as the Crown has not received a ballistics report.
- June 22, 2018 – All charges against Maurice are withdrawn at Okotoks Provincial Court due to compelling ballistics evidence from a firearms expert.
- Feb. 28, 2019 – Watson pleads guilty to mischief and failure to comply with a court order at Okotoks Provincial Court. He is sentenced to 45 days in custody but receives 1.5 days’ credit for each of 30 days already served for the matter.
- September 2019 – Maurice is served at his home, informing him he’s being sued by Watson for $100,000 for damages from the trespassing incident.
- Oct. 9, 2019 – Maurice files a $150,000 counterclaim to Watson’s suit, citing a loss of sense of security, mental distress, anxiety, nightmares, and a fear of repetition of the trespassing incident.
- Oct. 15, 2019 – Watson’s lawyer defends his client’s suit, stating Watson was told by RCMP he had a civil suit and that Maurice used excessive force.
- Nov 6. 2019 – Alberta Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer proposes new legislation whereby criminal trespassers would have no right of civil action against a law-abiding property owner who is defending property and family. Legislation would be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2018 – before the Maurice property incident.
- Dec. 18, 2019 – Maurice challenges to have the lawsuit against him thrown out of court due to Bill 27 – the Trespass Statutes (Protecting Law-abiding Property Owners) bill proposed by Schweitzer being passed in Alberta Legislature Dec. 5.
- Jan. 16, 2020 - Watson’s $100,000 suit is dismissed in court and the Maurices discontinue their $150,000 counterclaim.
Originally posted 01/16/2020 10:35 AM, updated 01/16/2020 2:00 PM