Friday, May 23, 2008

Taking the fly out of the water

On Thursday the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed a case where a man was suing a water company after finding flies in his water. The man had been buying the same brand of bottled water for 18 years. He was obssessed with cleanliness and the health of his family. He wanted them to have pure water. One day he found a fly in the water in the cooler and a second fly in another sealed bottle. The reaction to the event caused a severe phsycological phobia rendering extensive harm including being unable to work. A lower court awarded him more than $300,000 in damages.

The Court ruled that just because an event was possible (justified by the fact it happened) does not mean it was probable. They determined that the water company could only be held responsible for an outcome that could have been forseen by a reasonable person. The company was liable for breach of contract for supplying a contaminated product. The water company did not contest this part of the original ruling to the SCC. The Court noted that the man had not pursued the breach of contract aspect of the case with rigour. The man will also have to pay the water companies court costs.

This ruling effectivly cuts off attempts to bring to Canada the type of frivilous lawsuits that have been seen in the US. Businesses are responsible for the safety of their product. They are not responsible for damages caused by using the product in a way that would not be reasonable to anticipate. Canadians are not entitle to compensation caused by acting stupidly. Only good things can come from this ruling.

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