The Supreme Court of Canada ruled on Friday in favor of three health care workers in British Columbia who support have developed breast cancer because of their jobs.
Katrina Hammer, Patricia Schmidt and Anne MacFarlane are among the seven employees of a laboratory at Mission Memorial Hospital suffering from breast cancer.
The Commission work accidents in British Columbia had initially rejected their claims, saying the breast cancer was not an occupational disease.
But the decisions rendered by the Administrative Court of the Commission in 2010 and 2011 have reversed the verdict and first established a link between cancer and the workplace of the complainants.
The province’s Court of Appeal, however, ruled that these decisions were “manifestly unreasonable” because there was no evidence that the cancer which women were suffering was caused by their working environment, and that the court had ignored expert testimony to the contrary. According to the court, these cases fell within the statistical anomaly.
On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled against a six for the three women.
Russell Brown J., writing for the majority, ruled that the findings of the Administrative Court of the Commission were not “patently unreasonable.”
“Although the record on which was based the decision contains no evidence of confirmatory expert, the Court is nevertheless based on other evidence, viewed reasonably, could support its conclusion as to the existence of a causal link between breast cancer for employees and their working conditions, “he explained.
Brown said that the burden of proof was lighter in such cases and that the law should take the side of the complainants.
“If the probative value of evidence tending to indicate that the disease was caused by work is roughly equivalent to that of evidence tending to indicate otherwise, the question of causation will be decided in favor of the worker “he said.
The dissenting magistrate Suzanne Cote expressed strong disagreement with his colleagues.
“According to my analysis, there is in this case no evidence – and certainly no element of positive evidence – that would support the existence of a causal link between the use of employees and development of their disease respectively. ”