Lawyer wants workplace injury case thrown out for going overtime

A lawyer for Aecon Construction Inc. has argued that an occupational health and safety charge should be stayed because the case has gone over the time limit set by the Supreme Court of Canada.

The case involves an incident at Dalhousie University in September 2013. A steel beam fell on a 40-year-old worker who was left with a spinal cord injury. He now uses a wheelchair.

Aecon was charged in April 2015 with four workplace safety violations. Three charges have been dismissed, leaving one charge on the books — that Aecon failed to take every reasonable precaution to ensure the health and safety of a person at a workplace.

25 months and counting

On Tuesday, defence lawyer Norm Keith argued the prosecution has taken 25 months and counting, and gone over the 18-month deadline for provincial court cases as established in the Jordan case.

This is the first time an occupational health and safety case has been tested in Nova Scotia under the Jordan rule. 

Toronto lawyer Norm Keith is representing Aecon Construction Group Inc. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

The prosecution disagrees with the defence’s argument. It has calculated the total delay at between 16 and 22 months, so the “threshold has not been reached in this case, or we are moderately over the limit,” according to a document filed in court.

Keith blamed the prosecution for “passively ignoring” the time limit by underestimating how long it would take to call evidence from witnesses. 

Defence caused five months of delay

The trial, which has been held over seven days in January, May and September 2017, is set to resume next month.

Nova Scotia Crown attorney Alex Keaveny said the claim that the prosecution grossly underestimated the trial length was “completely false.” 

Alex Keaveny is a Crown attorney assigned to occupational health and safety cases. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

Keaveny said five months of delay were caused by the defence, which was unavailable for trial. Keith is a lawyer based in Toronto.

Keith conceded the delay, but said a later date was in everyone’s interest.

‘We treat delay very seriously’

“Hopefully the record in this case will show, just as with most other prosecutions, we treat delay very seriously,” said Keaveny outside the courtroom. 

“We work diligently to move matters forward and reduce delays whenever possible and certainly this case is no exception.”

Keith also took aim at the Labour Department for its pretrial handling of the file, claiming investigators were “dropping the ball, fumbling the…

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