Ontario starts 2015 with high-penalty fatality convictions

The Ontario Ministry of Labour (“MOL”) started the new year off by obtaining convictions in three high-profile workplace fatality prosecutions.

In late 2012 at Parmalat Canada Inc., a worker was run over and crushed to death by a reversing tractor trailer. After pleading guilty, the company was convicted on Jan. 14, 2015 and sentenced to a fine of $ 290,000 plus 25% victim fine surcharge for failing to ensure that a vehicle operator had an unobstructed view.

In May 2013, a worker at Future Mobility Inc. was crushed when a load shifted from a forklift. The employer was convicted on Jan. 15, 2015 of failing to ensure the safe movement of material and fined $150,000 plus 25% victim fine surcharge.

On the same day, New Mex Canada Inc. was convicted in a fatality case and fined $ 250,000 plus 25% victim fine surcharge. That case has other implications which are discussed in this article.

All three convictions were the result of guilty pleas. In Ontario, where a corporate accused or individual pleads guilty, it will usually be as part of a plea agreement with the Crown. Plea agreements have three standard features: (1) the withdrawal of most counts against the accused, save for those which the accused agrees to plead to, (2) agreed facts and (3) an agreed fine recommendation to the Court, at a cost below that which the Crown would anticipate if conviction had followed trial.

These cases are consistent with recent years’ experience that the MOL seeks, and obtains, sentences in excess of a quarter million dollars – even against medium or modest sized companies – in cases of fatality following safety violations.