Administrative law – Employment standards – Termination of employment – Just cause – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Issue estoppel – Discretion of court
Fuggle v. Airgas Canada Inc.,  B.C.J. No. 2800, British Columbia Supreme Court, December 11, 2002, Burnyeat J.
Airgas Canada Inc. applied to the court pursuant to Rule 18A for an order that the claim of John Fuggle be dismissed on the basis that there had already been a final determination of the issues between the parties under the Employment Standards Act, R.S.B.C. 1996 c. 13 (“Standards Act”) so that Mr. Fuggle was estopped from pursuing his claim for damages for an alleged wrongful dismissal from the employ of Airgas. Mr. Fuggle was dismissed from Airgas on October 2, 2001. On December 5, 2001, Mr. Fuggle submitted a claim to the Director of Employment Standards requesting a determination that he had been dismissed without cause by Airgas and that damages should be awarded. On February 22, 2000, Mr. Fuggle commenced an action in the Supreme Court alleging that he was wrongfully dismissed from Airgas. On March 12, 2002, the Director of Employment Standards made a determination that Airgas had just cause to terminate the employment of Mr. Fuggle. On March 27, 2002, Mr. Fuggle appealed the determination of the Employment Standards tribunal. On July 15, 2002, the appeal tribunal confirmed the determination that Airgas had just cause to dismiss Mr. Fuggle.
Airgas applied to the Court pursuant to 18A of the Rules of Court for an Order that Mr. Fruggle’s claim be dismissed on the basis that there had already been a final determination of the issues between the parties. In dismissing the application, the court noted that three preconditions to issue estoppel were set out in Danyluk v. Ainsworth Technologies Inc.,  2 S.C.R. 460, (1) that the same question has been decided, (2) that the judicial decision which is said to create the estoppel was final, and (3) that the parties to the judicial decision or the privies are the same persons as the parties to the proceedings at which the estoppel is raised. The court concluded that the preconditions to issue estoppel were met, but then went on to consider whether, as a matter of discretion, the issue of estoppel should not apply. In concluding that issue estoppel should not apply, the court noted that Mr. Fuggle was not given adequate or sufficient opportunity to respond to the position of Airgas, which resulted in a potential injustice. Taking into account the entirety of the circumstances, the court was satisfied that this was an appropriate case to exercise discretion to refuse to apply estoppel. In doing so Burnyeat J. stated:
There is nothing in the legislation prohibiting an employee from commencing or continuing an action, though a determination has been made by the administrative tribunal. The nature of the procedure under the Standards Act allows for quick determination of an issue but does not provide the procedural safeguards which would allow me to conclude that Mr. Fuggle is estopped from pursuing a parallel remedy.
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