Law Suits and Public Relations

According to an article by Canadian Press, Loblaws has seen the light and will no longer sue the man ‘deemed to be at fault’ for a collision involving a Loblaws truck that caused the death of the man’s wife and 6 teenage boys.  The legal action had been a lingering PR disaster that motivated outraged communities to push for a boycott.

Having spent all of 4 minutes considering the matter, I am struck by the lack of circumspect. This accident was a highly publicized tragedy that made front-page national news. Prime Minister Harper sent a letter of condolence to the school that the teenagers attended, according to CBC news, and no where in the coverage was the driver blamed.

This man was a basketball coach.  He was driving a van that carried the basketball team plus his wife and daughter.  It was winter and the road conditions were not good when the van fish-tailed on a highway and unspeakable tragedy ensued. This man might have been driving too fast, and his negligence might have caused damage to a Loblaws truck, however, from where I sit, public backlash seems a likely outcome of litigation. He made a horrible mistake and paid very dearly for it:  He lost his wife, he could have lost his daughter.  Many families in the community lost a son. Meanwhile, amidst all of this loss of life, Loblaws wants to recover for a damaged truck and lost inventory.  This looks cold-hearted to say the least.

There is lesson to be learned here.  As we graduate from law school and become involved in that financial bloodsport called litigation, we should remember that law suits do not occur in a vacuum.  Even though the law says you can, and even if you’re impervious to emotional reactions to sympathetic defendants, you should consider the potential for public outcry.  The client likely values his or her public profile more than money, and this applies whether the matter is civil, family or criminal.

From where I sit this seems so obvious …  but maybe things look different after swimming in shark-infested water for a few years.  Perhaps the real lesson is to remember what things look like from the outside when your on the inside.

About the Author

John Magyar
John J. Magyar, B.A., J.D., Graduate student, University of Western Faculty of Law. John received a B.A. in philosophy from the University of Western Ontario in 1990 and completed the Recorded Music Production program at Fanshawe College in 1993. Before returning to UWO to study Law, he held a wide variety of jobs including Operations Manager at Other Peoples Music Inc and Research Director at Technical Economists Ltd., a commercial real estate consulting service in downtown Toronto. He received a J.D. from UWO in 2010 and is currently working on an LL.M. thesis on statutory interpretation.

3 Comments on "Law Suits and Public Relations"

  1. I think you overlooked the fact that Loblaws’ fleet of trucks is likely insured under a CGL umbrella policy. Any property damage claim would have been subrogated and the at-fault driver’s third party insurer would have defended the action under his own auto policy.

  2. John Magyar | January 9, 2010 at 5:33 pm |

    According to the article, a “major grocery chain is backing away from a lawsuit it launched against the driver of a van …”. (Did you read the article or merely assume?) Perhaps the situation is being improperly described by the press, in which case it is the journalist and not me that is overlooking things. However, I doubt very much that legal action between insurance companies would cause a community to push for a boycott of a grocery store.

  3. Yes, I read the Canadian Press article, but it’s your blog post, not mine. If you’re posting legal commentary relating to a news article, then you might want to consider the legal, not just the societal, implications. Oh, and yes, you’re welcome.

Comments are closed.