Home Featured Seneca College awarded $136K in legal costs in COVID-19 vaccine policy case

Seneca College awarded $136K in legal costs in COVID-19 vaccine policy case

by HR Law Canada

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has awarded more than $136,000 in costs to Seneca College in a case involving its vaccination policy after revisiting its ruling in the wake of an Ontario Court of Appeal decision.

The case originated when M.C. and C.L., two single mothers and students at Seneca College, filed an injunction to prevent the college from enforcing its COVID-19 vaccination requirement for on-campus attendance. They were represented by the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF), which argued that the policy violated their constitutional rights.

The initial motion for an injunction was dismissed by the court in September 2022.

Following the dismissal, Seneca College sought to recover its legal costs from the JCCF, arguing that the organization had instigated and funded the litigation. It pointed out that it advertised the case extensively on its website and fundraised to support the cause.

In November 2022, Justice Black ordered the JCCF to pay Seneca’s costs amounting to $110,000 plus disbursements of $46,461.99. However, the Court of Appeal for Ontario remitted the matter back to the court, directing it to consider additional factors before making a final determination on costs.

Key points of the ruling

In his latest endorsement, Justice W.D. Black of the Superior Court of Justice confirmed that the litigation does not qualify as public interest litigation, a designation that could have mitigated the costs awarded. He noted that while the case touched on public interest issues, it did not meet the stringent criteria required for such a classification.

“The moving parties had a clear stake in the outcome of the litigation,” Justice Black wrote. “This litigation does not rise to the level of the rare category… (that) should be reserved for those ‘truly exceptional’ cases meriting characterization as public interest litigation.”

The court also examined the indemnity agreement between the JCCF and the students, which was not disclosed initially. Justice Black found the non-disclosure troubling, especially given previous admonitions to the JCCF for similar conduct in other cases.

“I find it disingenuous and somewhat troubling that the JCCF, having funded the litigation and having agreed to indemnify the moving parties in connection with any costs order, now purports to say that the existence of the indemnity agreement was not relevant, and did not need to be disclosed,” said Justice Black.

Citing a “modest” public interest component in the case, Justice Black decided to reduce the original costs order by $20,000. He ordered the moving parties to pay Seneca College $90,000 in costs, plus the full disbursements of $46,461.99.

Full decision available here: https://hrlawcanada.com/wp-content/uploads/2024/05/1715885513288.pdf

You may also like

Leave a Comment

About Us

HR Law Canada is dedicated to covering labour and employment news for lawyers, HR professionals and employers. Published by North Wall Media.