Sable Offshore Energy Inc. v. Bingley

In Fish Cases, Torts on (Updated )

This case involved an action by a lobster fisherman against the builder of an underwater pipeline for loss of income due to a decrease in his lobster catch alleged to have been caused by construction activities while laying an the pipeline. At the conclusion of a Small Claims hearing, a Small Claims court adjudicator awarded damages to the fisherman on the following basis:

I find on the balance of probabilities that the decrease in the catch rate in the sub-areas of Mr. Bingley was due to construction of the pipeline. The precise manner in which the construction of the pipeline impacted on the fishery is not known. However I find the conclusion inescapable given Mr. Bingley’s fishing history and detailed data that the construction of the pipeline and the ancillary activities did, in fact, negatively impact on his catch. (para. 4).

Upon appeal, the Nova Scotia Supreme Court found that the Small Claims adjudicator erred in law by determining causation before he or she determined that the defendant had committed a negligent act. In particular, the adjudicator failed to address the difficult issue of whether or not such a loss of income claim could be established for economic loss as opposed to physical harm. Accordingly the matter was remitted back to the Small Claims court before a different adjudicator for a rehearing.