Ruling seen as test case for several dozen other similar BFI actions
WINNIPEG, Aug. 24 /CNW/ - Manitoba Court of Queens Bench Justice Murray
Sinclair ruled in favour of Johnson Waste Management's suit claiming BFI
Canada Inc., a publicly traded company on the TSX, engaged in interference
with economic and contractual relations related to a legal contract JWM had
signed to provide waste-hauling services to Top Line Auto.
In concluding the eight-year legal battle, Sinclair awarded JWM $6,762.36
for general damages representing the value of business lost, $5,000 in
punitive damages to deter future business actions, and JWM's substantial legal
and court costs which have mounted into six figures.
The suit centred on actions BFI took to induce Top Line Auto to breach a
legal contract it signed with JWM to provide waste hauling services once Top
Line's existing contract with BFI had expired. BFI responded by illegally
offering a new contract with a better price on a five-year contract. BFI
back-dated the contract to give the appearance that it was in place before Top
Line signed with JWM, which would effectively nullify JWM's contract or extend
its start date by several years.
In his decision Sinclair wrote of BFI, "While the business in which the
parties are engaged is a highly competitive one, they must play by the rules,
and causing clients to ignore their legal obligations and undercutting
existing contracts is not to be condoned."
BFI has 30 days to appeal the ruling.
"We're delighted with the outcome of this lengthy and costly case and
trust it prompts BFI to conduct business more ethically in the future,"
Johnson Waste Management President Eric Johnson said. "We're hopeful this
ruling will provide the precedent for settling the several dozen outstanding
cases that involve similar BFI tactics "
In determining punitive damages were in order, Sinclair cited as
precedent a 1990 ruling by Justice J. Oliphant related to Mount Baker
Enterprises Ltd. v. Big Rig Collision Inc. Oliphant wrote:
"...inducing Big Rig to breach its contract with the plaintiffs can only
be described as malicious, wilful, high-handed and in flagrant disregard
of the contractual rights of the plaintiff. It was, in my opinion, pure
In applying the precedent to JWM's case, Sinclair wrote: "Considering the
nature and value of the contract between the parties and the conduct of the
defendant in inducing Top Line to breech its agreement with JWM, and in order
to deter the defendant from engaging in this type of conduct in the future, I
am satisfied that an award of punitive damages is in order. BFI benefited by
causing harm to JWM and the amount of the general damages in this case amounts
to little more than a license to continue that sort of conduct."
About Johnson Waste Management
Johnson Waste Management, established in 2000, is a family-owned,
Winnipeg-based waste management and hauling enterprise that provides front-end
loading, roll-off and recycling services to commercial and industrial clients
for collection and environmentally safe disposal of solid non-hazardous waste.
Collectively, company staff have over 100 years of experience in waste
management. JWM is headed by Eric Johnson.
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For further information: interviews or a copy of the judgement, please
call Eric Johnson at (204) 452-0909 or through www.jwm.mb.ca