In a recent decision of the Court of
Quebec, Mr. Pasquale Scrocca, a landscape
contractor, was found guilty of criminal negligence causing death
of one of his employees. While performing landscaping work at a
commercial building, Mr. Scrocca was operating a backhoe, when the
brakes of the vehicle failed and he collided into the employee.
Experts confirmed that the vehicle was 30 years old, very poorly
maintained and that the brakes were completely non-functional.
Ultimately, the Court concluded that, in neglecting to perform
maintenance on the backhoe, Mr. Scrocca markedly departed from the
standard of care expected of a prudent and diligent person. As
such, Mr. Scrocca was found guilty under Section 219 of the Criminal Code
(Canada), which provides that a person that shows wanton or
reckless disregard for the lives or safety of another person in
omitting to do anything that is his duty is criminally negligent.
The Court also invoked Subsection 217.1 of the Criminal
Code, which provides that everyone who undertakes or has the
authority to direct how another person does work is under a legal
duty to take reasonable steps to prevent bodily harm to that
person. Section 217.1 of the Criminal Code was introduced
in 2004 with the objective of ensuring the health and safety of
employees in the workplace and imposing a legal obligation upon
those people responsible for supervising work performed. This
provision complements Section 51 of An Act Respecting Occupational
Health and Safety (Quebec), which provides
that every employer must take the necessary measures to protect the
health and ensure the safety and physical well-being of its
workers. Moreover, the Criminal Code provides that
organizations may be held liable when acts or omissions by their
representatives are clearly negligent.
In this case, Mr. Scrocca was sentenced to pay costs and respect
certain conditions, failing which he would be liable for
imprisonment of two years. The Criminal Code provides that
in the case of criminal negligence causing death, the maximum
penalty for individuals is life in prison and there is no maximum
fine for organizations.
This case serves as a reminder to employers and their senior
officers and representatives of the significant liability that may
be incurred as a result of breaches of occupational health and
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