Pierrefonds resisted apologizing for 4 years after drunk janitor ruined family's partyA bungled bar mitzvah reception in Pierrefonds four years ago has cost the city of Montreal more than $27,000 in damages.
ALAN HUSTAK, The GazettePublished: Monday, May 14, 2007
Quebec Court awarded West Island pediatrician Peter Neumann moral and legal damages for what Neumann describes as the bar mitzvah from hell.
Neumann paid more than $1,000 to rent a room in the Pierrefonds Cultural Centre on Aug. 31, 2003, to celebrate his grandson's coming of age. Two caterers were hired for the 350 guests.
Things started to go wrong even before the party started when a drunken city janitor stole party ice from an ice machine, padlocked it in a freezer, then tried to sell it back to Neumann.
When guests twice got stuck in the elevators, the janitor, identified in court documents as Alain Blanchette, was of no help. As the evening wore on, the pianist on stage suffered a heart attack, but the custodian was nowhere to be found.
He appeared again just before 10:30 that evening and abruptly ordered the dance band to stop playing even though the room had been rented until 2 a.m. Then he threatened to lock everyone out of the building at midnight.
To add to the discomfort of the event, Blanchette didn't bother to fill the centre's toilet paper dispensers, and Neumann had to supply his own.
When Neumann complained to the city about the behaviour, a city investigator suggested he didn't have a case. After Neumann filed for damages, he learned that someone in the city's legal department advised the city that he didn't have a case because his grandson, Ace (Alexander), wasn't even Jewish.
Two months ago - almost four years after the event, and a month before the lawsuit was to be heard in court - he received an apology from Pierrefonds borough director Jacques Chan. By then, Neumann said, he had no intention of dropping the suit.
"For four years the city took us through hell. No explanations, no apologies, no nothing. I wasn't about to back down," Neumann said.
The court awarded Neumann $22,000 and four years' interest, at five per cent, in damages. In his written judgment, Judge Henri Richard said the allegation filed by the city that the bar mitzvah boy was not Jewish was "manifestly unfounded," and was "an unnecessary source of distress" to the family.
Neumann said he received the cheque this month and will donate it to charity.
"This was always about the principle, never about the money," he said.
The janitor was fired.
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