Maple Leaf Foods is not financially responsible to franchisees of a sandwich-shop chain for an interruption in supplies due to a listeria outbreak, the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled.
The court put to rest a lawsuit that franchisees of Mr. Sub brought against Maple Leaf. The 2008 outbreak of listeria in Maple Leaf cold meats, which was traced to a couple of slicing machines in a Maple Leaf plant, sickened 57 victims, killing 22 of them, in the worst food poisoning incident in Canadian history.
None of the illnesses were traced to Mr. Sub products, but Maple Leaf was at the time the sole supplier of deli meats to Mr. Sub, and the incident resulted in service interruptions. A group of more than 400 Mr. Sub franchisees sued, alleging that this interruption and the blow to Mr. Sub’s reputation had harmed their business.
An appeals court dismissed the case against Maple Leaf. The Canadian Supreme Court confirmed that dismissal in a 5 to 4 decision, saying that the franchisees’ losses were purely economic.
“Though the common law readily imposes liability for negligent interference with and injury to the rights in bodily integrity, mental health and property, it has been slow to accord protection to purely economic interests,” the decision read.