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Wallace & Bad Faith & Moral & Mental Distress Damages

Finding of negligence upheld for pre-hiring misrepresentations

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - High Tech

The B.C. Court of Appeal recently upheld one of the infrequent successful employment law tort claims in Feldstein v. 364 Northern Development Corp., [2017] BCCA174. The plaintiff, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, alleged the employer advised him in the pre-hiring phase that "proof of good health" for the purpose of his LTD coverage required only that he make it through the three-month waiting period prior to the plan coming into effect. However, when he required access to his benefits he was denied full coverage on the basis he had a pre-existing condition. 

The employer argued at trial that the representation was not made, the test for negligence was not met, and also that it was entitled to rely on an "entire agreement" clause in the contract. The trial judge rejected these arguments, and awarded the plaintiff over $83,000 in lost benefit payments, and $10,000 in aggravated damages. 

The Court of Appeal refused to interfere with the trial judge's findings concerning the negligence claim. It further found the entire agreement clause was not drafted in such a way as to protect the employer from the specific misrepresenation it made.   read more »

BC Court of Appeal affirms medical evidence not required to prove aggravated damages

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia

In Lau v. Royal Bank of Canada, 2017 BCCA 253, the British Columbia Court of Appeal overturned a $30,000 aggravated damages award attached to a wrongful dismissal judgment. During the initial trial the plaintiff gave evidence of the effects the termination had on his mental well-being but presented no medical evidence to substantiate his claims of mental distress. The court found the plaintiff was not harassed, scolded or or otherwise mistreated, and his testimony did not provide a sound basis for finding he suffered injury beyond the hurt feelings and distress that accompany any termination.

This decision affirms several important points surrounding mental distress claims in wrongful dismissal actions: actual bad faith conduct is a critical element of an award of aggravated damages; mental distress claims do not need to be accompanyed by proof of a psychiatric illness; and a plaintiff's own testimony absent medical corrobation is a valid consideration for the court. 

Aggravated damages awarded in absence of medical evidence

Jurisdiction: - British Columbia
Sector: - Retail Trade

In Cottrill v. Utopia Day Spas and Salons Ltd., 2017 BCSC 704, aggravated damages of $15,000 were awarded against a defendant for failing to be fair in its assessment of the plaintiff’s performance in the lead up to its decision to terminate her for cause.

This continues a recent trend in wrongful dismissal cases of aggravated damages being awarded for treatment seen by the court as unfair in the absence of medical evidence (see also Johnson v. Marine Roofing Repair & Maintenance Service (2003) Ltd., 2015 BCSC 472 for a similar result). 

Top 10 most significant employment law cases in Canada for women

In light of International Women's Day back on March 8, 2015, Legal Feeds, the Blog for Canadian Lawyer & Law Times published a list of the most significant court decisions for women in the workplace over the last 25 year, as compiled by the lawyers at Rubin Thomlinson LLP in Ontario. Here is the firm's top 10 list:  read more »