Newfoundland v. Ryan Estate

In Fish Cases, Torts on (Updated )

In this case, the Newfoundland Trial Division (2009 NLTD 120) held that the statutory bar to litigation in the Nfld. Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act (WHSCA) is unconstitutional.

Ryan Estate v. Universal Marine (Ryan’s Commander) involved a claim by the estates of two crew members of the fishing vessel Ryan’s Commander that capsized off of the coast of Nfld. in 2004. After commencing civil actions for damages, an internal review specialist of the Work Health and Safety Commission ruled that there was a statutory bar to litigation because both the deceased and the defendants were workers and the deaths occurred in the course of employment. Upon judicial review, the Trial Division ruled that the statutory bar to litigation in the WHSCA must be read down under the interjurisdictional immunity doctrine because it impairs the federal power to sue for damages under the Marine Liability Act. In doing so, the court noted that the provincial WHSCA legislation was in pith and substance an insurance scheme.

The court also held that the provincial legislation could not be upheld under the paramountcy doctrine.

Editor’s note: An article explaining the interjurisdictional immunity doctrine can be found on the website here.

This decision was upheld on appeal (2011 NLCA 42) with a dissent.