Court of Appeal of Quebec

Bédard v. Unifor inc.


Dutil, Giroux, Gagnon

Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court dismissing an application for damages. Dismissed .

The appellants are retired former unionized employees of a company that was restructured under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (R.S.C. 1985, c. C-36). Invoking the theory of loss of chance, they sued the national union (Unifor) and the local chapters representing active employees, alleging that they failed to defend them when they accepted unreasonable terms for the termination of their pension plan. The trial judge found that the local chapters and Unifor had committed faults (breach of their duties to inform and to consult), but that no causal connection between the faults and the damages alleged had been established.

In view of the interlocutory judgment establishing the Superior Court’s lack of jurisdiction ratione materiae, the judge should not have held the local chapters liable. Moreover, a decision of the Commission des relations du travail was rendered in their favour pursuant to sections 47.2 et seq. of the Labour Code (CQLR, c. C‑27). The local chapters were the only associations certified to represent the employees of the employer. As a matter of law, the faults alleged against Unifor could not fall under a breach of the duty of representation, which is exclusive to the local chapters. Nor could fiduciary duty apply as the basis for Unifor’s civil liability. If Unifor is liable, its liability must necessarily be grounded on the breach of an extracontractual obligation. Unifor acted as the representative of the local chapters with the employer. The appellants failed to establish that Unifor breached its general duty of prudence and diligence, however. The facts set out by the judge do not support a finding of gross fault, gross negligence, or carelessness by Unifor. Moreover, there is no causal connection between the faults alleged and the damages claimed.

*Summary by SOQUIJ
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