SCC: good review on law of negligence

The Supreme Court of Canada has recently released unanimous reasons for judgment written by Cromwell J., Fullowka and Pinkerton’s of Canada Limited, 2010 SCC 5.

I bring this case to your attention as a helpful overview on the law of negligence in Canada.

A strike at a mine near Yellowknife in 1992 degenerated into violence when the mine decided to continue operating the mine during the strike with replacement workers. Several security guards were attacked and some striking miners set off several explosions. One striking miner planted an explosive device in the mine and a car carrying nine miners triggered this set trip wire killing them all in the explosion. The miner survivors sued the mine, the security company hired to protect the mine during the strike and the Northwest Territorial Government. They also sued the local and national union for failing to control the striking miners and for insighting the violence.

The Supreme Court of Canada very helpfully reviews the law on duty of care, standard of care, proximity and other elements of the tort of negligence. The court held that the trial judge had been correct in finding that the murdered miners were owed a duty of care but errored in finding that the requisite standard of care had not been met. Justice Cromwell held that to the extent that the judge had required the security company to ensure that the entrances were properly guarded to avoid all access to the mine, he had imposed an absolute duty on the security company and not a duty of reasonable care.

The Supreme Court of Canada also held that the trial judge had applied the wrong legal test for causation. The correct test is the “but for” test and that this case did not fall into the class of exceptional situations in which the test for causation should be relaxed to the “material contribution” test.

All in all this is a good read for the review of negligence principles including duty and standard of care, foreseeability, proximity and residual policy considerations.

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