Employee not liable for fire damage caused by ‘ordinary negligence’

Insurance company wanted employee on duty to accept liability for fire that destroyed business
|Canadian Employment Law Today|Last Updated: 11/14/2012

The Nova Scotia Supreme Court has denied an insurance company’s attempt to collect money it paid out to a business for fire damage from the employee who was on duty when the fire started.

Emily MacLean, 29, was a summer student in 2003 working for Green Thumb Farmers Market in Alma, N.S. On Aug. 1, 2003, MacLean and Green Thumb’s owner were working in the early evening. There were no other employees there, as Green Thumb was short-staffed that day and it was near closing time.

MacLean was in the bakery section of the store and was boiling eggs intended for the next day’s sandwiches on a hot plate. While the eggs were boiling, she went to the front of the store to perform other tasks. However, MacLean soon smelled smoke and went back to the bakery section, where she found a fire. She warned the owner and called 911. The fire spread and caused $285,000 of damage to the property.