• Environmental and OHS Class Actions: Playing for "Keeps"
  • April 17, 2012 | Author: Stuart W. Chambers
  • Law Firm: McLennan Ross LLP - Edmonton Office
  • Many heavy industry companies operating in Canada require licences from environmental regulatory authorities where their operations may have an impact on the environment. They must also comply with federal, provincial and municipal environmental laws. Further, all companies have a general obligation to reasonably ensure the health and safety of their employees. When an environmental or OHS incident occurs, the company responsible may face charges or other penalties under "Health, Safety and Environment" legislation. However, their liability may not be confined to the regulatory arena - companies may face exposure to lawsuits claiming damages arising from these same activities. In fact, even if the activity in question was properly licenced, that would not automatically protect the company from civil judgments against it. And when the lawsuits are advanced as class actions, the costs of defending and the scope of damages awarded by the court may ultimately ruin the company. A class action is a hard fight, on often played for "keeps".