Bar Owners Facing Wrongful Act Manslaughter Charges after Employee’s Wrong-Way Accident on Highway 401

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Companies and their owners are increasingly considering the risk of criminal safety-related charges and fines.

We have recently reported on the criminal fine against Metron Construction under the Bill C-45 amendments to the Criminal Code.

The Ottawa Citizen and other media have reported that two co-owners of a Belleville bar have been charged with the criminal offence of wrongful act manslaughter.

The charges result from an incident in which an employee drove away from the bar, allegedly intoxicated.

The Citizen reported that the employee left the Angry Beaver Bar and Grill and was driving the wrong way in the eastbound lane of Highway 401 near Trenton when she collided with an oncoming vehicle on February 6, 2012. The employee and the other driver were both pronounced dead at the scene.

The co-owners of the Angry Beaver bar were both charged with two counts of manslaughter and six liquor licence violations, including encouraging immoderate consumption, permitting drunkenness and serving liquor to an apparently intoxicated person.

Media reports say that the bar’s liquor licence was permanently revoked by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario and the premises are now shuttered.

Apart from the obvious safety considerations raised by the incident, and the sad consequences, this case shows that a failure to comply with regulatory requirements can, in a worst-case scenario, put a company out of business.

Employers should review their regulatory compliance processes – in particular, in relation to safety – and ensure that the risk of violations is minimized. A regulatory breach can, as in this case, have tragic consequences that can, in some cases, lead to criminal charges.