Canadian woman found guilty of assault for deliberately coughing on store employee during pandemic

Apr 25 2023, 5:23 pm

A Vancouver Island woman has been found guilty of assault after she deliberately coughed on a grocery store employee early in the pandemic and rammed her cart into another worker.

The drama began when Kimberly Woolman entered the Save-On-Foods grocery store in Campbell River on April 24, 2020, and pushed her cart up to an area of the store that was cordoned off, according to Judge Barbara Flewelling’s decision made this month.

Woolman asked store manager Jacqueline Poulton why the area was taped off, to which Poulton explained it was too narrow to allow for the six-foot physical distancing mandated at the time. Woolman apparently told Poulton that COVID-19 wasn’t real and was stupid, and when asked if she’d obey the social distancing rules, she replied, “No.”

The store manager asked Woolman to leave, but instead of obeying she pushed her cart down an aisle away from the exit. Poulton followed the customer through the store and repeatedly asked her to leave if she wouldn’t follow guidelines as Woolman continued screaming that COVID-19 was fake.

At one point, Woolman stopped, turned around, and “forcibly coughed in the direction of Ms. Poulton’s face, twice.”

After that, coworkers stepped in to assist. The employees encircled Woolman and her cart and guided her toward the exit. But at the exit, Woolman had items in her cart she hadn’t paid for. One employee, Gord Dawson, stood in front of the cart to prevent her from stealing the merchandise.

Woolman tried to wrestle the cart out of Dawson’s hands and pushed the cart directly into him, the judge found.

Eventually, Woolman left the cart and walked to her vehicle.

The judge concluded that Woolman was guilty of causing a disturbance in the Save-On-Foods, guilty of assault for coughing on Poulton, and guilty of assault for ramming the cart into Dawson.

“I conclude that when Ms. Woolman coughed at or on Ms. Poulton, she was emitting a force which consisted of lung air which included respiratory droplets. I conclude that the virus can be found in the exhaled respiratory droplets and when directed at Ms. Poulton in an indoor setting and within six feet, meets the definition of force contained in s. 265(1)(a) of the Criminal Code,” the judge wrote.

Poulton was shaken by the incident and concerned about being infected with COVID-19. She reported the workplace incident, went home, washed her clothes, showered, and monitored for symptoms. She was able to return to work the next day.

Megan DevlinMegan Devlin

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