Talking About Liability

This week, TraveLaw Online’s Doug Crozier and Tim Law of Heifetz, Crozier, Law respond to a travel advisor’s query about COVID-19-related liability and the issue of legal immunity.

Q: I saw a newspaper article that talked of legal immunity for COVID-related liability.  Is it relevant to the Travel Industry, or only to places like Nursing Homes, hospitals, etc.?

A: The article is no doubt based on Bill 218. If passed, this proposed statute would apply to any person or company in Ontario. It was only just introduced into the provincial Legislature, so it may well change before it is passed (if it ever is). Thus, it’s best not to count on it, at least for now.

The idea is that it would prohibit a lawsuit being brought, or pursued,

  • by anyone who is actually or possibly infected by COVID-19.
  • against the person who allegedly caused the infection.

PROVIDED the latter person made a good faith effort to comply with relevant public health guidelines, and any federal, provincial or municipal laws. A “good faith” effort would include an honest effort, whether or not it was reasonable.

Thus, someone who honestly thought that playing Beatles music would ward off the virus could enjoy the statutory immunity.

That may change.

If the Bill is passed, it would be retroactive to March 17. That, too, may change. Altering the rules of the game, after the game has started, is difficult to justify. Under its current wording, Bill 218 could terminate COVID-based lawsuits that are already underway.

While not directly relevant to the Travel Industry, Bill 218 is also apt to be challenged because it could give a pass to the Nursing Homes that the Ontario Premier said would be held accountable for the spike in deaths in the early weeks of the pandemic.

The legal immunity granted by Bill 218, if passed, would not be universal. Acts of gross negligence, and acts that are illegal would not be excused. Nor would it exonerate employers vis a vis staff in a number of health-care scenarios.

It’s a topic worth following, but don’t hold your breath for legal immunity to arrive before herd immunity does.

If you have a question, you can contact Crozier or Law at [email protected] or connect with Bob Mowat at Canadian Travel Press/Baxter Media at [email protected].

Heifetz, Crozier, Law is a Toronto law firm that has for years represented all aspects of the Canadian travel industry.

The lawyers at HCL also maintain a non-travel practice, covering litigation, real estate, Wills, corporate/commercial matters, etc.

To contact HCL, e-mail [email protected].