On April 30, 2018, the Court of Appeal for Ontario released its decision in 1688782 Ontario Inc. v Maple Leaf Foods Inc., 2018 ONCA 407, reversing a decision granting summary judgment (in part) in favour of Mr. Sub franchisees in a class action commenced against Maple Leaf Foods Inc. following the listeria contamination of certain Maple Leaf ready-to-eat meats in 2008. The Court of Appeal’s decision makes numerous references to the Supreme Court’s decision in Deloitte & Touche v Livent (Receiver of), 2017 SCC 63, and highlights the importance of properly defining the scope of any duty of care arising from a relationship between parties.
Second, the motion judge erred in failing to consider the scope of the proximate relationship between the parties or the scope of any duty of care arising from it. According to the Court of Appeal, to the extent that there may be a duty to supply meat fit for human consumption, it does not extend to the damages for pure economic loss alleged by the franchisees. Writing for the Court, Fairburn J.A. stated:
 To conclude that Maple Leaf owed a duty of care in tort to the franchisees to protect them against the kinds of damages at issue on this appeal would be to enlarge the duty to safeguard the health and safety of customers by supplying fit meat to include a quite different and added duty to franchisees to protect against reputational harm. In my view, to do so would constitute an unwarranted expansion of a duty owed to one class of plaintiffs and extend it to the fundamentally different claim advanced by the franchisees. In other words, the franchisees cannot bootstrap their claim for damages for reputational loss to the different duty owed by Maple Leaf to their customers.
The decision of the Court of Appeal in 1688782 Ontario Inc. v Maple Leaf Foods Inc.is a good reminder that there needs to be a link between the duty of care and the damages suffered. Establishing any duty of care is not sufficient. The scope of the duty of care that is alleged must be broad enough to encompass the nature of the damages claimed, and the damages claimed must flow from a breach of the duty of care as defined.
The information and comments herein are for the general information of the reader and are not intended as advice or opinion to be relied upon in relation to any particular circumstances. For particular application of the law to specific situations, the reader should seek professional advice.
Written by former Partner, Marie-Andrée Vermette