In this week’s installment of our Curious Case series, we take a look at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice case of Bruni v. Bruni, 2010 ONSC 6568. As stated in our last curious case post here, real life is often stranger than fiction. This is one of those cases where even the Judge in this case could not withhold his frustrations with the ways in which these parties interacted with one another. While entertaining, the Judge’s comments throughout this case serve as a stern warning to family law litigants to have some modicum of respect for one another.
Catherine and Larry Bruni separated in 2010 after an 11 year marriage. While in committed relationships with other people, the two separated individuals absolutely loathed one another. There was nothing out of bounds for this couple, from death threats to alienating their children, B and T, against each other.
Larry sought to set aside the child support provisions in their separation agreement because he felt that Catherine’s partner, Sam, was able to support her and the children. Larry also sought an equalization of net family property. As later stated by the Judge, Larry neglected to read the entire Separation Agreement resulting in disadvantages such as, property rights, rights to his children, and even the rights to independent legal advice.
Catherine responded by requesting variation of the separation agreement by amending child support and access provisions, seeking spousal support, and acquiring contributions to extraordinary expenses.
Catherine would often threaten Larry by stating that “the Hell’s Angels would be knocking on his door at any moment” or that” her family members were on their way to kill him”. She even took matters into her own hands by trying to run him over with her vehicle.
On the other hand, Sandra, Larry’s significant other, refused to allow B to contact her mother while in the care of her and Larry, stating that Larry’s time with his children was his and not Catherine’s.
Furthermore, Justice Quinn noted at paragraph 70 of his decision that “[o]n 14 occasions, within 18 months, the parties drew the police into their petty disagreements — a sad commentary on their inability to get along and a shocking abuse of the Niagara Regional Police Service.”
During their trial, Catherine and her partner, Sam, continuously uttered threats in the court room directed towards Larry.
The Judge dismissed Larry’s requests and partially allowed Catherine’s requests by making small changes to the Separation Agreement including typographical errors and the amendments to the amount of child support Larry had to pay.
The judge felt that it had been Larry’s responsibility to read the entire Separation Agreement before signing, and it is due to his own neglect that he is now facing these misfortunes.
JUDGES NOTES WORTH READING:
- “A finger is worth a thousand words and, therefore, is particularly useful should one have a vocabulary of less than a thousand words.”
- “When the operator of a motor vehicle yells “jackass” at a pedestrian, the jackassedness of the former has been proved, but, at that point, it is only an allegation as against the latter.”
- “I confess that I sometimes permit a lengthier hiatus than the schedule of the court might otherwise dictate in order to afford the parties an opportunity to reflect on the trial experience, come to their senses and resolve their difficulties like mature adults. It is touching how a trial judge can retain his naivety even after 15 years on the bench.”
- It takes a special level of audacity to utter threats under the roof of the Court House.
- I gather that this is Larry’s version of the Big Bang Theory.
- My personal favourite excerpt, which is quoted in full:
 Some family trees have more barren branches than others.
 Larry testified about the many death threats he received from Catherine and members of her family around the time of, and in the months following, separation. I will mention some of them.
 In September of 2006, Larry went to live with his father “for a couple of days” to “clear my head”. When he returned to the matrimonial home, the locks had been changed. Larry stated in evidence: “Catherine didn’t want me on the property and her family threatened to have me killed.” [page260]
 Larry gave evidence that, less than one month later, Catherine “Tried to run me over with her van.” [See Note 6 below]
 On November 21, 2006, Catherine demanded $400 from Larry or her brother was “going to get the Hells Angels after me”. [See Note 7 below]
 On February 9, 2007, Catherine told Larry that she wanted him to sign adoption papers so that Sam could adopt their children. [See Note 8 below] Said Larry, “She threatened me with her brothers and Hells Angels again.”
 On August 13, 2007, Catherine’s niece (Donna), telephoned Larry “and told me I will get a bullet in my head if I don’t sign the adoption papers. She called back later and told me I’m as good as dead.” She called a third time, “to tell me her father and uncles are coming to kill me”. [See Note 9 below]
 The next day, Catherine telephoned Larry and said that she “wanted my truck or her brother and the Hells Angels are coming to get it and me”.
 On October 18, 2007, a nautical theme was added. According to Larry, “Donna Taylor, Catherine’s sister-in-law, yelled out her window that I was going to be floating in the canal dead.”
 As can be seen, Catherine and her relatives are one- dimensional problem solvers.
If you’re interested in taking a look at this curious case for yourself, here’s the link to the full decision!