On September 4, 2013, the Ontario Court of Appeal ordered Metron
Construction Corporation ("Metron") to pay a fine in the
amount of $750 000 for criminal negligence causing
death.1 After Metron pled guilty to the offence, the
trial judge ordered the company to pay a fine of $200 000. This
case was the result of the collapse of a swing stage from the
14th floor of a building on December 24, 2009 which
resulted in the death of a supervisor and three employees.
According to the Ontario Court of Appeal, the fine which Metron
was ordered to pay by the trial judge was manifestly unfit. We are
of the opinion that the following aspects of the decision are
The Use of Health and Safety Case Law
According to the Court of Appeal, the trial judge placed too
much emphasis on the case law dealing with fines in the context of
occupational health and safety offences (penal provisions). In so
doing, the trial judge failed to consider the higher degree of
moral blameworthiness associated with a criminal conviction. In
addition, the intrinsic seriousness of the offence of criminal
negligence causing death must be considered. Lastly, since Metron
pled guilty to this offence, it could not subsequently try to
diminish its liability and distance itself from the actions of the
supervisor, its representative, by relying on his corporate rank or
his level of management responsibility.
The Company's Ability to Pay
The section of the Criminal Code related to fines for
organizations does not impose any maximum amount and does not
require the court to consider the company's ability to
pay.2 The ability to pay may be considered in
determining the punishment but does not constitute a prerequisite
for the imposition of a fine. In Metron's case, the economic
viability of the enterprise was not a determining factor necessary
to establish the appropriate fine and too much emphasis had been
placed on Metron's ability to pay.
The Court of Appeal concluded that a $200 000 fine did not reflect
the gravity of a guilty verdict for criminal negligence causing
death, the particular circumstances of the case, or the serious
consequences for the victims and their families. The negligence of
the supervisor, and thus Metron's criminal responsibility, was
"extreme". A fine in the amount of $750 000 was more
This judgment of the Ontario Court of Appeal is the first of an
appellate court on the subject. It is particularly enlightening as
to the criteria which must guide the courts in determining the
appropriate punishment for criminal negligence in the context of an
occupational accident. It is also the highest fine imposed on an
enterprise guilty of criminal negligence causing death, the
previous record being $100 000.3
For more details on the trial level judgment, please see our
publication by clicking here.
1.R.v.Metron Construction Corporation, 2013 ONCA
2Criminal Code, R.S.C.
1985, c. C-46, section 735.
3R. v.Transpavé inc., 2008 QCCQ
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