Can an Employee be Sued in a Personal Injury Case?

In Canada, generally you can sue employees along with the employer of where the personal injury took place. This was confirmed in one of our clients’ recent Ontario Court of Appeal case.

We acted for the plaintiff. When we filed the lawsuit, we named the employer, Starbucks Coffee Canada Inc., as a defendant. We also named as defendants two individuals who worked at Starbucks.

In response to our Statement of Claim, Starbucks filed with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice a written request (known as a motion) to remove the two individual defendants. The motion judge dropped the lawsuit against the two individual defendants, but after we filed an appeal the Ontario Court of Appeal decided in our client’s favour.

The Ontario Court of Appeal agreed that adding these two particular individuals to the lawsuit wasn’t an abuse of process in this case: “The situation would be different if the plaintiff had named defendants who had no direct involvement in the substance of the claim. That is not the situation here.”

Also, the Ontario Court of Appeal decision stated: “there is no general rule in Canada that an employee acting in the course of her employment cannot be sued personally for breaching a duty of care owed to a customer.”

Thus, the two named individuals remained defendants in this case.

Why Add Employees as Defendants?

Seeing individuals named as defendants in a personal injury lawsuit isn’t unusual. A significant reason for naming individuals is to obtain relevant information about the case directly from the individuals. This information gathering occurs during a phase of the lawsuit called “discovery”. The information gathered during discovery allows the parties to better understand what opponents will say if the case proceeds to trial. In turn, this will help us improve the strength of your case.

For more information about the discovery process in Ontario, read our blog post “What Is the Discovery Process in Ontario?”. Also, please feel free to contact Douglas Strelshik if you have any questions about the process or who can be sued in a personal injury lawsuit.