In December 2020, a building under construction at 555 Teeple Terrace in London, Ontario, partially collapsed, killing two construction workers and injuring several more. The legal fallout from the collapse includes a $2 million lawsuit by the families of injured workers, a $4 million insurance claim by the building’s owner, and regulatory charges relating to workplace safety.
Family Members Bring Claim on Behalf of Injured Workers
Two of the individuals injured in the building collapse, Jacob Hurl and Travis Jaklitsch, suffered severe injuries when a wall gave way while the building was under construction. Jaklitsch was on the third floor of the 5-story building when he was knocked unconscious and covered in rubble due to the sudden collapse. His injuries included a fractured spine, ribs, and neck, concrete burns, a broken leg and a shattered ankle. Since the accident, he has also suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, nervous shock and emotional trauma.
Hurl was on the first floor at the time of the incident and was pinned under falling debris, concrete and metal, for four hours. He suffered several broken bones and vertebrae, a concussion, a cracked skull, a fractured hip, and severe chemical burns. Since the incident, he has also suffered from several mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression.
Under provincial Workplace Safety and Insurance Board policies, construction workers who are injured on the job must deal with claims through the Board itself and cannot sue their employers directly. As a result, Jaklitsch and Hurl’s family members have launched a lawsuit on their behalf, seeking $2 million in damages stemming from their injuries.
Building Owners Sue Insurer for $4 Million for Refusal to Pay Damages
Nest on Wonderland Inc., the building owner, recently filed a $4 million lawsuit against its insurer. The suit alleges that while Intact Insurance has agreed to pay some damages stemming from the incident, it has primarily denied coverage on the basis of an exclusion clause in the insurance agreement. The clause in question excludes damage incurred through reliance on “faulty or improper design.”
The owner claims Intact Insurance has failed to provide compensation for the following costs:
- Construction costs;
- Fine, penalties, and fees stemming from the collapse;
- Loss of income due to construction delays;
- Mortgage and interest penalties relating to the project’s financing; and
- Damage to the company’s financial credit.
According to the lawsuit, the collapse was triggered when concrete was poured on the fourth floor of the building. The resulting weight caused an entire outer wall to give way, while the concrete crashed through each floor below.
Nest on Wonderland Inc.’s claim states that it is seeking “full and further indemnity for direct physical damage or loss sustained with respect to the construction and partial collapse of the building [as well as] a declaration that the Intact policy covers and fully indemnifies [the owner] in respect for any and all claims for physical damage and soft costs.”
Intact Insurance has acknowledged the claim but has not yet responded.
Ministry of Labour Investigation Results in 8 Regulatory Charges
Shortly after the collapse, Ontario’s Ministry of Labour launched an investigation into the cause of the incident. The investigation results were just recently released and resulted in eight charges under the provincial Occupational Health and Safety Act against two companies and an unidentified person.
A concrete forming company based in Tillsonburg, Ontario, faces one count of “failing to provide information, instruction, and supervision to a worker to protect a worker’s health and safety at a workplace located in London, Ontario.” Another company, a manufacturer and supplier of steel framing systems, faces six regulatory charges. Of those charges, most relate to a failure to meet construction design requirements under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In addition, the steel framing systems company is charged with “failing to ensure that a building, structure, or any part thereof, or any other part of a workplace, whether temporary or permanent, is capable of supporting any loads that may be applied to it in accordance with good engineering practice.”
Lastly, an unnamed person is charged with one count of “providing advice negligently or incompetently that did endanger a worker at a workplace.” Depending on the person’s role and function, this could lead to disciplinary proceedings by a governing body overseeing the individual’s profession.
Ontario’s Minister of Labour, Monte McNaughton, warned businesses that the province takes worker safety seriously and urged companies to prioritize the safety of their employees:
Any company in Ontario that thinks worker safety is just the cost of doing business should think twice because they will quickly feel the full force of the law. We owe it to the families, friends, and loved ones of the victims to ensure something like this never happens again.
As the workplace safety investigation was recently completed, further legal action may stem from the findings.
For Advice on Commercial Litigation, Insurance, and Regulatory Matters, Contact Milosevic Fiske LLP in Toronto
Milosevic Fiske LLP provides unparalleled representation in complex corporate commercial litigation matters. We also offer knowledgeable advice on insurance issues and represent defendants facing regulatory charges, including Occupational Health and Safety matters. Our experienced Toronto litigation lawyers provide creative, cost-effective legal solutions in the most complicated legal disputes. Call us at 416-916-1387 or contact us online to learn more about how we can help.