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In Association With Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann, & Bernstein, LLP

Local: 416-548-9874

Toll Free: 1-800-462-3864

Can you sue in Canada for a personal injury suffered on vacation?

When someone goes away for a holiday, all that's on his or her mind is having some fun in the sun and leaving the everyday stresses of life in Ontario behind. Some prudent types might think to take out travel insurance to guard against the unexpected. Few however, would ever consider that a life-threatening personal injury could be their vacation souvenir.

In Feb. 2009, a husband and wife from Edmonton went on vacation to a resort in Mexico after purchasing a packaged trip from a Canadian travel company. While at the resort, the woman allegedly grabbed a bottle of what she assumed was water from the minibar fridge in their hotel room. She swallowed a quantity of the fluid, only to discover that it was likely some type of cleaning product. The fluid burned her esophagus so badly she required emergency surgery. After returning home, she underwent an additional 87 operations to repair the damage.

The couple took legal action against the Canadian travel provider, as well as the hotel and the hotel's parent company in Mexico. The owners of the hotel argued that the contract to stay, eat and drink at the facility was made outside of Canada, and therefore legal action against them could not take place in the victim's home province of Alberta. They also argued that Mexico was a more suitable location for a trial, since that was where their witnesses resided.

The defendants later admitted they had yet to speak with the alleged witnesses, were not certain where they lived, nor could they say what evidence the witness would provide. However, 12 confirmed witnesses for the plaintiff lived in Alberta. A judge ruled the trial could proceed in Canada, even though the defendant operated in another country, because that is where the contract was sold.

There are several legal precedents to support the idea that a Canadian can sue a foreign entity for a personal injury suffered abroad, under certain circumstances. Cross-border legal dealing may be complicated, but that shouldn't stop a victim from pursuing compensation for pain and suffering. Anyone who is not sure about his or her rights after an accident, either in Ontario or abroad, may wish to speak to a lawyer for clarification.

Source: canadianunderwriter.caer.ca, "Mexican resort can be sued in Alberta by tourist alleged to have accidentally ingested cleaning fluid in hotel room", May 18, 2017

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