Richard B. Johnson
Ascent’s Richard B. Johnson and Glen Stratton recently appeared in Supreme Court where they successfully represented the Plaintiff, Ms. Carol-ann Goulding, in a wrongful dismissal claim against her previous employer, Triple B Ventures Ltd (Carol-ann Goulding v Triple B Ventures Ltd., BCSC No. S-222429, Vancouver Registry).
At trial, which the Defendant failed to attend, Mr. Justice Masuhara ruled that our client, who was 60-years old had been employed for just shy of one year, was entitled to 8 months’ reasonable notice.
The Defendant had pleaded that:
It had just cause to terminate Ms. Goulding; and
That she had committed civil fraud, conversion, pilfered funds, and breached fiduciary duty.
The Defendant ultimately never appeared at trial and never produced any evidence to substantiate its just cause allegations in the litigation. All of which our client denied. Ms. Goulding also experienced significant mental distress while employed with the Defendant as a result of a toxic working environment and conflicting instructions from the principals of the company.
As a result, Mr. Justice Masuhara also awarded our client $15,000 in aggravated damages and $15,000 in punitive damages. These damages are harder to obtain, especially punitive damages, given these are exemplary damages which seek to penalize and denunciate bad faith conduct. The Plaintiff also received double costs from the date Plaintiff’s counsel made a formal offer, given the award at trial ended up being higher than the formal offer.
This decision serves as a reminder to employers not to defend wrongful dismissal lawsuits based on unmeritorious just cause allegations, especially where there is no evidence to substantiate those allegations. This decision recognizes the power imbalance between employers and employees and punishes an employer for attempting to exploit that power imbalance through utilizing its superior financial resources to gain tactical litigation advantage.
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