Case Commentary – Plaintiff Can Both Sue an Employee and Their Employer
A recent Court of Appeal decision will allow a plaintiff to make a vicarious liability claim against Starbucks, as well as suing the individual barista and manager on duty.
The plaintiff suffered burns to her hands when a barista was filling a bottle that she was holding. She alleges that the barista negligently poured the hot water on her hands. In addition to suing the barista, her lawsuit names the manager, and Starbucks itself. The corporation attempted to have the claims against the barista and manager struck out. Starbucks was initially successful, but the plaintiff appealed this decision.
Plaintiff may sue both an employee and the employer for an injury
On appeal, the court overturned the motion judge and found in favour of the plaintiff. While Starbucks is named because it may be vicariously liable for the negligent actions of its barista, this does not preclude the plaintiff from also naming the barista personally.
The implication for the plaintiff is significant. Had the motion decision been upheld, she would have been limited in examinations for discovery, having only one named defendant to examine. In most cases, a corporate defendant will not have any information about the actual events giving rise to an injury.
The plaintiff may now choose to examine the barista, as well as the manager, in addition to a corporate representative of Starbucks, as these are all separate parties to the lawsuit. The barista and manager will have much more relevant evidence, having been personally involved in the actions giving rise to the claim.
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