Employee did not have Duty to Intervene to Stop Fight: Court

Does an on-shift-employee have a duty to intervene to stop a fight between members of the public – or between other employees?  A recent court decision provides some guidance on that issue.

Madam Justice Beth Allen of the Superior Court of Justice (Ontario) decided that a bus driver was not required to intervene to stop a fight between two bus passengers.  She dismissed a negligence suit against the driver.

The two passengers got into an “altercation” on a bus.  The incident started when one passenger bumped the other while moving toward the back of the bus. Angry words ensued which led to them grabbing each other and the plaintiff falling to the floor and being injured.  The injured passenger sued both the Toronto Transit Commission and the driver.  The TTC and the driver moved to have the lawsuit thrown out, arguing that there was no genuine issue of fact requiring a trial.

The court stated that the “Security for Bus Operators” manual prohibits a driver from intervening physically in a fight because of the risk of physical injury and the risk of being charged with assault.  It was also up to the driver’s judgment as to whether to verbally tell the fighters to stop.  Here, the bus driver acted reasonably by stopping the bus and putting it out of service.

In short, the plaintiff had not proven that the TTC or driver were negligent   The lawsuit was dismissed.

According to this decision, the employee was not required to intervene to stop a fight since doing so could have put himself in harm’s way.

Clarke v. Toronto Transit Commission, 2013 ONSC 2287 (CanLII)


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Adrian Miedema

About Adrian Miedema

Adrian is a partner in the Toronto Employment group of Dentons Canada LLP. He advises and represents public- and private-sector employers in employment, health and safety and human rights matters. He appears before employment tribunals and all levels of the Ontario courts on behalf of employers. He also advises employers on strategic and risk management considerations in employment policy and contracts.

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