Former Senator Cody Ceci, partner deny allegations in $8M lawsuit

Cody Ceci and his partner, Jamie Thompson, have denied all allegations contained in an $8.6-million lawsuit brought against them by Hana Engel, a woman who was badly burned at a dinner party hosted by the former Ottawa Senator in May 2018.

Ceci and Thompson, his common-law partner, filed a statement of defence this week in response to Engel’s statement of claim, which was filed in July.

In the statement, Ceci and Thompson “admit none of the allegations” contained in Engel’s claim, arguing they have “no knowledge” of a number of the details and denying any negligence on their part.

Engel was left with second- and third-degree burns to 35 per cent of her body after an incident involving an outdoor tabletop fireplace. The 25-year-old-woman alleged in her claim that she was “immediately engulfed in flames” after Thompson accidentally ignited her with liquid ethanol burner fuel.

None of the allegations in either statement has been tested in court. 

Blames manufacturers

The statement of defence places most of the blame on Ceci and Thompson’s co-defendants, the companies behind the products involved.

“Any resulting damages or losses sustained by the plaintiffs … were caused solely, or contributed to, by the negligence of the co-defendants, Clair De Lune Products Inc., and/or Les Distributions Orca Lite Inc.,” the statement reads.

The defendants list 21 reasons why the manufacturers were at fault, including making the tabletop fireplace with faulty components, failing to properly test and inspect the product, selling poor quality materials and selling the fireplace without proper instructions.

The statement accuses the manufacturers of failing to warn consumers that the fireplaces could fail at any time, and neglecting to inform retailers of the “inherent defects and dangers associated with the use of ethanol-filled tabletop fireplaces.”

Statements of defence have not yet been filed by either company. 

Engel negligent, defendants claim

Ceci and Thompson also claim that the alleged injuries, losses and damages Engel suffered were “caused or contributed to by her own negligence.”

The defence alleges that Engel was inattentive, endangered her own safety and that she may have been impaired during the incident. Their statement also claims Engel was affected by “illness, injury or disease” before the incident took place.

According to Engel’s lawsuit, Thompson operated the fireplace improperly, disregarded warning labels, failed to warn guests of potential danger and allegedly squirted liquid ethanol onto an open flame.The suit accuses Ceci of similar negligence and for failing to prevent Thompson from refilling the fireplace with ethanol while the flame was lit.

Engel claims that when Thompson refilled the ethanol, flaming liquid jetted from the bottle. Thompson then threw the bottle in Engel’s direction, setting her clothes on fire, Engel claims.

The lawsuit also alleges that Thompson and Ceci might have been impaired, and notes Clair de Lune stopped selling the tabletop ethanol fireplace following the incident.

Millions in damages

Engel is seeking more than $6 million in damages over the ordeal, which left her in a three-week coma and required three surgeries, her claim says.

Engel’s common-law partner, Ceci’s former Ottawa 67’s teammate Jacob Cardwell, is seeking $900,000 in damages for loss of care guidance and companionship, loss of income, emotional distress and for costs associated with caring for Engel.

Her parents, Bruce and Bonnie Engel, and siblings Matthew and Sabrina Engel, are also seeking damages for similar reasons.

Ceci and Thompson are asking Clair de Lune and Orca Lite pay their legal costs. The defendants are seeking “further and other relief” as the court deems just, and ask that Engel’s lawsuit ”be dismissed with costs payable to them.”

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