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City has spent $667K fighting Ontario Ministry of Labour

The City of Greater Sudbury’s fight against Ontario Ministry of Labour charges they were liable as an employer in the 2015 death of a pedestrian went all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada

The City of Greater Sudbury has spent approximately $667,000 in legal costs to date on a case in which the Ontario Ministry of Labour charged them in the death of a pedestrian in 2015.

The legal battle went all the way up to the Supreme Court of Canada, which concluded last week that the city had “breached its duties as an employer,” and was liable in the death.

The contractor behind the 2015 water main improvement project where Cecile Paquette was run over by a graeder driving in reverse was Interpaving. They were found guilty under the Occupational Health and Safety Act in 2019, and fined $195,000.

Parallel to this, Paquette’s family filed a $2-million lawsuit against the City of Greater Sudbury, Interpaving, and the grader’s driver. Interpaving settled in 2020 and paid $350,000 to the family.

The city’s journey through the court system is not done yet, with the Supreme Court’s recent ruling determining the matter be returned to the provincial appeals court, where the city will need to prove it took all reasonable steps to prevent the 2015 death.

“The city is currently reviewing the decision of the Supreme Court and evaluating next steps,” a City of Greater Sudbury spokesperson told last week.

“As the issue of due diligence has been returned to the provincial offences appeal court for determination, the City is unable to speak to matters that remain in litigation.”

Both the city and Interpaving were charged by the Ontario Ministry of Labour in relation to the death, for failing to provide necessary safety measures.

During the initial trial, Judge Karen Lische dismissed all charges against the city, ruling the city had no obligation to ensure Interpaving and its workers complied with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

The Ministry of Labour appealed this decision, which Superior Court Justice John Poupore rejected in 2019, ruling Lische was correct.

The Crown appealed the dismissal, and the Court of Appeal ruled the city was an employer within the meaning of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and, as a result, was liable. 

The city appealed that ruling, and the Nov. 10 Supreme Court of Canada ruling upheld the Court of Appeal’s decision to find the city liable for the incident.

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