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Woman who coughed on grocery store employee during COVID-19 found guilty of assault

A judge has found a Campbell River woman guilty of assault for coughing at and shoving a cart against two grocery store employees in 2020.

She was also found guilty of one count of disturbing the public for the incident, which took place on April 24, 2020 at the Save-On-Foods in Campbell River.

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At the time, there were COVID-19 health measures in place for social distancing and capacity.

On the day in question, the court documents say that Kimberley Woolman walked into the store and approached Ms. Poulton, a supervisor. Poulton was at the front of the store by the checkout area, which had been cordoned off to prevent people from walking through the narrow area.

Woolman entered the store with a shopping cart and walked up to Poulton, asking “aggressively” why it was cordoned off. When Poulton explained the store policy and requirement to comply with public health orders, Woolman told her “COVID was not real and that it was stupid.”

According to Poulton’s statement, when asked if she would obey the social distancing rules, Woolman said no.

Poulton then asked Woolman to leave the store, but Woolman just repeated that “COVID is not real” and walked away towards the back of the store.

The court documents say Poulton followed her and repeatedly asked her to leave if she wouldn’t follow the guidelines, all while Woolman started to scream back at her that “COVID is fake.”

Poulton reportedly was following the customer at a distance of six feet, but Woolman suddenly stopped, turned to face her and leaned forward and forcibly coughed in Poulton’s direction twice.

Again, Woolman was asked to leave, and two more employees arrived to help—Sean Cleaver and Bruce McMuldroch.

The three employees attempted to guide Woolman to the store exit, all while she continued to yell, take a few steps, then stop and step toward the employees.

Then two other employees, Scott Weiner and Gord Dawson, arrived to assist as they made their way to the front of the store, totalling five employees.

Woolman was still pushing a cart that had unpaid merchandise in it when they finally got to the exit. Dawson stepped in front of the cart and took hold of it to prevent her from leaving with the items. He said that Woolman tried to wrestle it out of his hands by twisting it and then by pushing it directly into him.

Woolman told staff that she needed the cart to walk, so she was given an empty cart, but then chose not to use it and instead limped to her car, “with no apparent difficulty.”

The woman was later charged with two counts of assault and one count of disturbing the public, all of which the judge found her guilty of.

Woolman sought to have the charges dismissed, and argued that the Crown had not reviewed the store surveillance video capturing the incident, that it was her who was actually harassed, confined and then arrested by store employees. She also said that the Crown had not complied with their disclosure requirements by failing to give her the contact information for the Crown witnesses.

“I found all those reasons to enter a judicial stay of proceedings were unmeritorious and also summarily dismissed her applications in relation to those matters,” the judge wrote in the decision.

“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,” said Judge Flewelling. “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.”

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