Mainstream media rarely reports on developments in the legal system, even though many court cases have important ramifications for everyday individuals. Below is a roundup of three of the most interesting and important cases from 2018.
The case of Watson v. The Governing Council of the Salvation Army of Canada
, can be seen as a reflection of the impact of the #metoo movement in the Canadian justice system. In this case, an employee left her position with the Salvation Army and negotiated a severance package which included her signing a full and final release of liability. Almost five years later, she sued the Salvation Army and her former manager claiming that she had been sexually harassed by the manager during her employment. The manager attempted to have the case dismissed and argued that the employee had forgone any claims related to her employment by signing a full and final release. However, the court found that the release that the employee signed did not cover claims related to sexual harassment even though the harassment occurred in the workplace.
This case is the first to separate claims of workplace harassment from other employment issues and allow these claims to proceed even after a full and final release has been signed. Employees can take comfort in the knowledge that even if they sign a release, certain claims, such as claims related to workplace harassment may not be precluded.
Ontarians may remember hearing about the case of Gamoff v Hu
in the news during the real estate downturn in 2018. In this case, the homeowners accepted an offer of 2.25 million dollars made by the purchasers. However, after the offer had been accepted, the purchasers realized that they were unable to obtain adequate financing and informed the homeowners that they would be retracting the offer. Due to changes in the housing market, the homeowners were able to sell the home for only 1.7 million dollars and sued the purchasers for the difference between the original 2.25 million dollar offer and the final sale price. The Ontario court found in favour of the homeowners and required the purchasers to pay almost $500,000 in damages.
This case serves as an important reminder to individual consumers and sellers that once an offer is made and accepted there may be financial consequences for either side reneging on the agreement. Although this case focuses on the real estate market, these legal principles are generally applicable in all transactions between purchasers and sellers in any market and industry including general contracting, landscaping, and sales of goods. Before changing the terms of an agreement which has been finalized, individuals may want to contact a lawyer to confirm that the change will not leave them on the hook for financial damages.
Family Law and Assisted Reproductive Technology
As the use of assisted reproductive technology has become more common in Canada, numerous legal issues have arisen. One of these issues came to light in the 2018 case of S.H. v. D.H
., where a married couple entered into a contract with a company in Georgia to purchase donated eggs and sperm, which resulted in viable embryos. The couple then used a company in Mississauga, Ontario for the implantation of one of the embryos, which was successful with the couple having a son. After the divorce, the couple disagreed about what should happen to the remaining embryo. The husband wanted to donate the embryo, as per a contract signed in Georgia, USA, while the wife wanted to keep the embryo in order to have another child, as per a contract signed in Ontario. The court decided to award the embryo to the wife.
Importantly, this is one of the few Canadian cases that addresses how genetic material (sperm, eggs, embryos, etc.) should be dealt with in a legal dispute, and how contracts dealing with the genetic material should be interpreted. Following, an earlier decision regarding a dispute about the division of donated sperm, and the contracts, the judge found that the embryo should be treated as property. However, treating the embryo as property presented some unique issues. Generally, when property is disputed, the item is sold and the proceeds are split between the parties. However, it is illegal to sell embryos in Canada; and therefore, this standard procedure could not be followed. Instead, the court required the wife, who had been awarded rights to the embryo, to reimburse the husband for his portion of the cost of obtaining the embryo. This case should serve as a reminder that individuals seeking to use assisted reproductive technology should always speak to a lawyer about the many possible legal issues that can arise and how best to avoid them when growing their family.
Please note: The information provided is intended for general use. DAS Legal Protection Inc. is not providing legal advice and should not be relied on as such. If you have any legal questions, we would advise you speak to a lawyer.