Canada: SCC: Provincial Legislation Prohibiting Workplace Accident-Related Tort Claims Against Negligent Employers Applicable To Maritime Industry

Last Updated: August 29 2013
Article by Robert E. Boyd

On August 2, 2013, the Supreme Court of Canada ("SCC") handed down a judgment reiterating the broad scope of immunity against civil actions granted to employers under provincial workers' compensation schemes1.

More specifically, the SCC ruled that, pursuant to this immunity, heirs of two fishermen who died at sea while performing their duties could not rely on a federal maritime statute to bring a civil action against a boat builder alleging negligence in the design of the vessel and against Transport Canada for negligence in the inspection of the same.

Background

The widows and dependants of two deceased fishermen sought and obtained compensation contemplated by the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act of Newfoundland and Labrador (WHSCA). They also initiated a civil negligence action against the vessel manufacturer and one of its employees, and Transport Canada, pursuant to subsection 6(2) of the Marine Liability Act (MLA):

6....
(2) If a person dies by the fault or neglect of another under circumstances that would have entitled the person, if not deceased, to recover damages, the dependants of the deceased person may maintain an action in a court of competent jurisdiction for their loss resulting from the death against the person from whom the deceased person would have been entitled to recover.

However, the Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission (the "Commission") found that the action in tort related to a workplace accident was prohibited under Section 44 of the WHSCA:

 44. (1) The right to compensation provided by this Act is instead of rights and rights of action, statutory or otherwise, to which a worker or his or her dependents are entitled against an employer or a worker because of an injury in respect of which compensation is payable or which arises in the course of the worker's employment.
(2) A worker, his or her personal representative, his or her dependents or the employer of the worker has no right of action in respect of an injury against an employer or against a worker of that employer unless the injury occurred otherwise than in the conduct of the operations usual in or incidental to the industry carried on by the employer.
(3) An action does not lie for the recovery of compensation under this Act and claims for compensation shall be determined by the commission.

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (Trial Division) and the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador (Court of Appeal) overturned the ruling by the Commission, stating that Section 44 of the WHSCA, a provincial statute, could not impede the exercise of a negligence action pursuant to the MLA, a federal statute, by reason of the doctrines of interjurisdictional immunity and federal paramountcy.

According to the doctrine of interjurisdictional immunity, a provincial statute is rendered inapplicable when it trenches on the core of a federal statute and impairs the exercise of the federal power. As for the doctrine of federal paramountcy, it states that, if provincial legislation is incompatible with federal legislation, the federal legislation must prevail.

The Trial Division and the Court of Appeal found that the statutory bar of action in Section 44 of the WHSCA infringed on the right to bring a negligence action pursuant to the rules of maritime legislation, a matter falling under federal jurisdiction. According to the federal paramountcy doctrine, Section 44 of the WHSCA should have been deemed inoperative and the negligence action under the MLA authorized.

Judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada

The SCC discussed the history of the Canadian workers' compensation schemes. Following the "historic trade-off" establishing a no-fault regime, workers lost their cause of action against their employers in exchange for compensation in the event of a work accident, whether or not the employer was at fault. The employers, for their part, gained protection against civil actions in exchange for contributions to the injury fund.

In its analysis of the bar against civil actions established by Section 44 of the WHSCA, the SCC pointed out that this bar benefits not only the employer of an injured worker, but also any employer that contributes to the scheme as well as all workers of such employer, as long as the worker was injured in the course of his or her employment and the injuries occurred in the conduct of the operations usual or incidental to the industry carried on by the employer.

Thus, the SCC ruled that, pursuant to Section 44 of the WHSCA, a negligence action could not be initiated by the estate of the two fishermen against the vessel manufacturer and its worker, an employer and an employee within the meaning of the WHSCA, respectively.

The SCC rejected the application of the doctrines of constitutional law.

As regards the doctrine of interjurisdictional immunity, the SCC held that the application of Section 44 of the WHSCA, even though it regulates maritime negligence law issues, does not constitute an encroachment serious enough to impair the exercise of the federal power over navigation and shipping.

As for the doctrine of federal paramountcy, the SCC found that there were no conflicts between the provincial bar against actions related to workplace accidents and a maritime negligence claim. Subsection 6(2) MLA does not suggest that a negligence action may be initiated under any circumstances. The fact that an action may not be brought by reason of the bar established by a provincial statute is not inconsistent with the general context, intent and subject matter of the MLA.

Although this matter falls under the particular purview of the MLA, the SCC provides an interesting analysis of the history and scope of the bar against civil actions against an employer under a workers' compensation scheme.

It should be noted, however, that the SCC analysed the statutory bar against civil actions contemplated by the workers' compensation statute of Newfoundland and Labrador. The scope of civil immunity may vary depending on a given legislative text. For example, in Québec, An Act Respecting Industrial Accidents and Occupational Diseases prohibits civil actions against an employer, but authorizes, under certain circumstances, an action against a third party2.

1 Marine Services International Ltd. v. Ryan Estate, 2013 SCC 44.

2
 Section 441, An Act Respecting Industrial Accidents and Occupational Diseases, chapter A-3.001.

The foregoing provides only an overview. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, a qualified lawyer should be consulted.

© Copyright 2013 McMillan LLP

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
Robert E. Boyd
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
 
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions