Over 20 years after a workplace incident that seriously injured
a worker, the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench has dismissed the
worker's civil action against a developer.
The worker had been working on a rooftop of a condominium
conversion project in March 1994 when he slipped on an icy roof and
fell through a piece of plywood covering a hole cut through the
roof for a skylight. The worker sustained serious injuries and was
rendered a paraplegic. A report from Alberta OHS prepared following
the incident noted several deficiencies at the work site but
charges were not laid.
The worker commenced a civil action against three parties
thought to be outside the workers' compensation scheme. Two of
those parties were ultimately let out of the action after the Court
determined that they did fall within the workers' compensation
scheme. The remaining defendant was the owner of the property and
the developer of the project. The worker alleged that the developer
was liable for the incident on the basis of negligence in the
development and supervision of the project, vicarious liability for
the project manager, and breaches of the Occupier's
One of the aspects considered by the trial judge was the impact
of the statutory requirements under Alberta's Occupational
Health and Safety Act ("OHSA"). The Court confirmed
that while a breach of the OHSA could inform on the reasonable
standard of care, it could not create an enforceable duty. Further,
the evidence did not establish that the OHSA had been
breached as it did not impose any duties on an owner/developer. The
OHSA in force at the time of the incident (RSA 1980) has
since been amended but while many aspects of the legislation have
since changed, the current OHSA also does not impose any
duties on an owner directly, unless the owner is considered the
Ultimately, the Court found that while the developer did owe a
duty of care to the worker, that duty was limited in scope and was
restricted to the selection of a competent project manager. The
developer was not responsible for supervising safety at the work
site. The court found that the developer's selection of the
project manager was reasonable and satisfied its duty of care to
the worker. Further, the Court determined that the project
manager's relationship to the developer was that of an
independent contractor such that there was no basis for a finding
of vicarious liability. The Court also dismissed the worker's
claim that the developer was liable under the Occupier's
Liability Act on the basis that the developer had exercised
reasonable care and supervision of the project manager.
The Court did however proceed to find (in obiter) that the
project manager was negligent on the basis that it had: failed to
keep the roof clear of ice and snow and failed to ensure that an
appropriate cover was designed and appropriately secured.
While the developer in this case was not found liable, this case
serves as an important reminder of the importance of ensuring that
the requirements under the OHSA are met, and notes that in
certain cases, the failure to do so may expose parties which are
outside of the protection of the workers compensation scheme to
damages in a civil action.
Dentons is a global firm driven to provide you with the
competitive edge in an increasingly complex and interconnected
marketplace. We were formed by the March 2013 combination of
international law firm Salans LLP, Canadian law firm Fraser Milner
Casgrain LLP (FMC) and international law firm SNR Denton.
Dentons is built on the solid foundations of three highly
regarded law firms. Each built its outstanding reputation and
valued clientele by responding to the local, regional and national
needs of a broad spectrum of clients of all sizes –
individuals; entrepreneurs; small businesses and start-ups; local,
regional and national governments and government agencies; and
mid-sized and larger private and public corporations, including
international and global entities.
Now clients benefit from more than 2,500 lawyers and
professionals in 79 locations in 52 countries across Africa, Asia
Pacific, Canada, Central Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Russia and
the CIS, the UK and the US who are committed to challenging the
status quo to offer creative, actionable business and legal
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. Specific Questions relating to
this article should be addressed directly to the author.
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.
On Thursday, September 22, 2016, Dentons hosted a panel discussion about the management of liabilities and risks associated with environmental crises, including potential liabilities for directors and officers and provided insight into risk and liability techniques associated with environmental crisis management.
Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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).