Supreme Court takes restrictive approach in tainted meat ruling

November 10, 2020

CBC reports that in 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) dismissed an appeal made by Mr. Sub franchisees against Maple Leaf Foods.

In the appeal, Mr. Sub franchisees claimed that a 2008 listeriosis outbreak linked to a Maple Leaf Foods meat processing plant—causing a six-to-eight week product shortage—resulted in financial losses for the restaurants. The appellants sought to claim damages for reputational harm and loss in revenue.

However, in a cautious approach, the SCC ruled in favour of Maple Leaf Foods, finding that the meat processor did not owe the Mr. Sub franchisees a duty of care—the legal obligation of a person or organization to avoid any omissions that could likely be foreseen to cause harm to others.

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Speaking to CBC on the court’s decision, Andrew Bernstein noted that there has been a trend over the past few years for the SCC to take a restrictive approach in cases that involve negligence liability for economic losses.

"The Supreme Court struggles with this issue because they're worried about two things. On the one hand, they're worried about letting harms go unremedied, but on the other hand they're worried about imposing liability too broadly," Andrew said.

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