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September 24, 2014

Owner of Vehicle Not Protected Under the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act

A recent Superior Court decision highlights the interplay of the Workplace Safety and Insurance Act with the Highway Traffic Act.

In Maria-Antony v. Selliah, 2014 ONSC 4264 (S.C.J.), the plaintiff was injured in a motor vehicle accident involving a tractor-trailer owned by FTI.  At the time of the accident both the plaintiff and the defendant driver (Selliah) were employed as transport truck drivers for 1362038 Ontario.  They had been contracted to carry cargo for 1323109 Ontario. 

A right to sue application was brought before the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal.  The tribunal held that plaintiff's action against Selliah and the numbered companies was barred.  Since FTI was not an employer, the action against it as owner was not barred.

FTI brought a summary judgment motion to have the action against it dismissed, taking the position that the result of the Tribunal decision was to make any liability to the plaintiff several (not joint and several), thereby limiting liability to its own negligence.  There was no evidence of negligence by FTI; the claim was based on its status as owner of the vehicle.

O'Marra J. dismissed the motion.  Section 192 of the Highway Traffic Act which imposes vicarious liability on the owner of a vehicle for the actions of the driver, and so FTI remained liable for the acts of the driver.  Even though the action against Selliah was barred, FTI did not enjoy the statutory protection under the WSIA.

It seems that this decision allows plaintiffs to do indirectly what they cannot do directly: recover damages based on the negligence of a protected worker.

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