Ocean vs. Economical: Harsh words fly as 1st trial ends

Judge finds breach of court rules disturbing

May Ocean  at NS Supreme Court
  • May Ocean at NS Supreme Court

The first phase of May Ocean’s NS Supreme Court lawsuit against the big auto insurance company, Economical Mutual ended last week in a hail of invective. During 25 days of hearings, Ocean, who is representing herself in court, repeatedly accused Raymond Patrick Sullivan of lying about their two-car collision on December 13, 2000 near Whites Lake, about 25 kilometres south of Halifax.

The collision happened after Ocean, driving her brand new Volkswagen Golf, pulled out of a store parking lot for a left-hand turn to head south on Prospect Bay Road. Sullivan’s 1988 Honda Civic CRX rounded a curve heading north toward Halifax. According to an accident reconstruction expert, Sullivan was likely travelling 91 kilometres per hour when his car struck Ocean's in her southbound lane. The posted speed on that stretch of road is 70 kilometres per hour. The collision sent Sullivan to hospital for 14 days with a broken pelvis and bone fractures while Ocean sustained physical and psychological injuries that she says led to the near-collapse of her million-dollar pewter business.

In her closing arguments, Ocean called Sullivan “an opportunist and a liar who has no respect for the law, for his own life and the lives of others.” In another typical comment Ocean said, “We’re here (in court) because Mr. Sullivan has lied, we’re here because of him.”

Economical’s lawyer, Geoff Machum, responded by suggesting that Ocean herself suffers from narcissism and is so self-absorbed in her own theories about how the crash happened, she’s unable to hear anything else. He also accused Ocean of deliberately trying to embarrass Economical with her repeated claims in court that the insurance company was threatening her and her children — claims that he said, Ocean hoped would appear in the Coast’s reporting on her lawsuit. Later, when Ocean accused Machum of hiring someone to follow her around, the lawyer shot to his feet to declare, “That is a falsehood.”

Judge Deborah Smith ended the trial (the first of three) by noting she found Ocean’s accusations against Sullivan disturbing. “It’s not proper to stand up in court and call someone a liar,” Smith told Ocean adding that in all her years on the bench, she had never heard such language. She said she attributed this lapse in decorum to Ocean’s lack of knowledge about courtroom rules. “It’s a very serious allegation that someone has perjured themselves in court.” (For the Coast’s original cover story, see May Ocean vs. Goliath.)