Canada: Supplier And Manufacturer Of Copper Piping Liable For Failure To Meet City’s Watermain Sterilization Process

Last Updated: October 3 2014
Article by Jeffrey Brown

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice rendered a decision1 involving a product liability claim that considered new legislation and guidelines arising from the Walkerton water crisis. This case suggests that even if there has been no specific discussion about a product between the buyer and seller, a Court might still find that the buyer has relied on the seller regarding the suitability of a product if the seller had previously provided advice. The decision also suggests that if a supplier knows that a product will be used for an application that has to meet specific local standards, the supplier needs to make an inquiry of the manufacturer to ensure that it meets those standards.

In this case, the plaintiff, Brantford Engineering and Construction Ltd. ("Brantford Engineering"), was hired by an engineering firm to install watermains in the City of Brantford ("the City"). The specifications for the project called for the use of copper tubing in the watermain system. Brantford Engineering retained Underground Specialties Cambridge Incorporated ("the Supplier") to obtain the copper piping to be used in the project. The Supplier hired Wolverine Tube (Canada) Inc. ("the Manufacturer") to manufacture the copper tubing.

As a result of the Walkerton water crisis in 2000, the Ontario government instituted the Safe Drinking Water Act, 2002 ("the Act"), which established minimum water standards throughout Ontario, including the necessity of maintaining a chlorine residual at all times in the water system. Chlorine is used as a disinfectant to eliminate pathogens that can lead to sickness and death. Pursuant to the Act, municipalities were permitted to establish higher standards than those set out in the Act. The City chose to do so, and required a two-step sterilization procedure involving a chlorination test and a chlorine residual test, which had to be met prior to the connection of the watermain to the municipal water system.

Although the copper piping met the chlorination test, it repeatedly failed the chlorine residual test. The Manufacturer did investigations and obtained a report which suggested that the copper's protective layer was attacked during the "superchlorination process" during the first part of the City's sterilization test, which caused the copper to corrode and dissolve and have a negative impact on the chlorine residual level (the second part of the sterilization test). The Manufacturer failed to disclose this report to Brantford Engineering, the Supplier and the City.

Ultimately, Brantford Engineering ordered plastic pipe from the Supplier which was installed as a replacement watermain and passed all tests. Brantford Engineering brought a claim against the Supplier for breach of contract under the implied warranties of the Sale of Goods Act ("the SGA") and against the Manufacturer for negligence, for the losses it incurred to replace the pipe and incidental costs.

Liability of Supplier for Breach of the Implied Warranties

In order to find a breach of the implied warranty, it is crucial to find that the buyer relied on the seller's skill or judgment. The Court found that Brantford Engineering's expertise was in the installation of watermains, but the Supplier was knowledgeable about the material it supplies on watermain projects, and the Supplier's general manager ("GM") knew that the City required that the watermain pass the sterilization process before it could be connected to the water distribution system. The Court also found that the Supplier's GM knew of the special purpose of the copper pipe and would be "applying his knowledge" to the City's requirements.

The Court found that the Supplier had breached the warranty of reasonable fitness. In reaching this conclusion, the Court made three curious statements:

  1. The court noted that the Supplier's GM had "provided advice and recommendations in the past". However, it is unclear why prior recommendations would have any bearing on the question of whether Brantford Engineering had relied on the Supplier for this specific project. The Court noted that there had been "no specific discussions" regarding the piping used for this project.
  2. The Court stated that it is of no consequence that the type of copper tubing was specified by the engineering firm that had retained Brantford Engineering. Apparently, the Court believed that the Supplier was under an obligation to tell Brantford Engineering that copper tubing would not meet the City's sterilization procedure.
  3. The Court held that the seller is obliged to be diligent in acquiring information, and cannot simply rely on the manufacturer. In this regard, the Court stated that it had "long been known a chemical reaction can occur when copper comes in contact with chlorine, particularly when chlorine is of a high concentration", and that the Manufacturer had this information.

Although not strictly necessary, the Court also found that the copper piping was not of merchantable quality, and therefore the Supplier also breached the implied warranty of merchantable quality under the SGA. However, merchantability is a question of whether a good is generally saleable in the market, and it is not clear that the copper piping would not have been saleable for use in other watermains that were not subject to the City's more stringent requirements.

Finally, the Court held that the exclusion under the Supplier's limited warranty did not exclude the implied warranties under the SGA, because the warranty did not use explicit language to exclude "statutory conditions" of fitness or merchantability, which a long line of cases have said is necessary to exclude the implied warranties under the SGA. Interestingly, the Court considered the limited warranty even though it was not in the contract documents, but was solely contained in subsequent documents (i.e. packing slips, invoices) after the contract was signed. The Court said that because prior dealings between Brantford Engineering and the Supplier contained the limited warranty, the post-contractual documents would be considered even though the impact of the warranty stated therein was unclear.

Liability of Manufacturer in Tort

The liability of the Manufacturer in tort also raises some interesting questions. The Court rejected the Manufacturer's argument that the pipe only had to meet ASTM standards, given that the Manufacturer knew the product was going to be used in watermains. The manufacturer was unaware of the City's requirements. Indeed, on cross-examination, when the Manufacturer's witness was asked if they made any inquiries into municipal sterilization specifications following the Walkerton crisis and the legislation that followed, the witness responded "Why would we?"

The Court found that the Manufacturer had a "due diligence obligation" to ensure that its product met regulatory and municipal standards, and that it should have made inquiries after the introduction of the Act. This ruling suggests that a manufacturer can be found liable if its product is sold in municipalities where it does not meet local standards, even if the product would meet standards elsewhere.

The Court also found that the Manufacturer had breached its duty to warn given that it failed to disclose the report that set out the reasons why the copper piping was failing.


1 Brantford Engineering and Construction Ltd. v. Underground Specialties Cambridge Inc., 2014 ONSC 4726, 2014 CarswellOnt 11423.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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

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

Jeffrey Brown
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
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
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:
  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.
  • Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.
    If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here
    If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here

    Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

    Use of

    You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). 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 & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


    Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd 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 or performance of information available from this server.

    The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


    Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

    • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
    • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
    • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

    Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

    Information Collection and Use

    We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

    We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

    Mondaq News Alerts

    In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


    A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

    Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

    Log Files

    We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


    This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

    Surveys & Contests

    From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


    If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


    From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

    *** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


    This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

    Correcting/Updating Personal Information

    If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

    Notification of Changes

    If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

    How to contact Mondaq

    You can contact us with comments or queries at

    If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.

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