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COLLECTIVE AGREEMENT - Civil actions - When available

Wednesday, July 10, 2019 @ 8:02 AM  

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Appeal by the defendant, Telus, from a jurisdictional ruling. The plaintiff, Stene, was a unionized employee of the defendant. She commenced an action seeking damages for negligent misrepresentation. The plaintiff alleged that a Telus manager misrepresented the extent to which she would be accommodated in the workplace for injuries she sustained in two motor vehicle accidents. The plaintiff alleged that she relied upon the manager's statement in agreeing to settlement of the claims related to the accident for less than she otherwise would have considered. Telus applied to dismiss the claim on the basis that it was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the parties' collective agreement. The chambers judge concluded that the substance of the claim was an alleged negligent false statement, and therefore an arbitrator would not have jurisdiction. The claim was permitted to proceed in court. Telus appealed.

HELD: Appeal allowed. Although the chambers judge correctly identified the governing principles, he erred in applying them. The essential character of the parties’ dispute was the truth of the statement that Telus had effective accommodation policies and practices that applied to the plaintiff. The alleged misrepresentation was clearly associated with the employment relationship. Determination of the validity of the statement required an interpretation of the collective agreement's provisions regarding permissible accommodation. Thus, the Weber principles required the claim be adjudicated under the collective agreement’s arbitration process. Further, an arbitrator would have jurisdiction to award an effective remedy for the wrong alleged. The chambers judge's order was set aside and substituted with an order dismissing the plaintiff's action.

Stene v. Sun Life Assurance Co. of Canada, [2019] B.C.J. No. 1055, British Columbia Court of Appeal, D.F. Tysoe, A.W. MacKenzie and D.C. Harris JJ.A., June 12, 2019. Digest No. TLD-July82019007