Asbestos removers’ ‘nonsense’ lawsuit against WorkSafe B.C. tossed out

Gordon Hoekstra | Vancouver Sun |  Published on: March 1, 2017

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has thrown out a lawsuit by an asbestos removal company against WorkSafe B.C., labelling the suit “arrant nonsense.”

It’s the fourth such lawsuit against WorkSafe B.C. launched by Mike Singh, who operates Seattle Environmental Consulting Ltd., and his son Shawn Singh, who heads up ESS Environmental Ltd. All have been dismissed because the suits have been found to be without merit and are an abuse of process, according to the recently released ruling.

The Singhs have launched other complaints — all of which have failed — including to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal, arguing that WorkSafe B.C. has maliciously singled them out for penalties for contraventions of asbestos removal in houses that are to be demolished. At times, the Singhs have said they have been discriminated against because they are Indo-Canadian.

“The ill-advised and unmeritorious litigation campaign that these plaintiffs have been waging, and continue to wage, against the Workers’ Compensation Board and its various representatives should come to an immediate end,” B.C. Supreme Court Justice Nigel P. Kent said in his 12-page ruling.

Between 2007 and 2012, WorkSafe B.C. issued 237 asbestos violation notices to the two men and companies they controlled, and imposed fines in excess of $200,000. Since then, more violation notices and additional fines have been issued, bringing the total fines to more than $500,000.

In the latest suit, the Singhs sued not only the WorkSafe B.C. board but its lawyers, its president and seven of its directors.

The Singhs accused the board of various statutory violations, including breaches of the Civil Rights Protection Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Among their claims, the Singhs alleged that WorkSafe B.C. deceived the courts, lied to judges, tampered with evidence and misrepresented facts in an effort to close down their companies, the court ruling noted.

The judge wrote that, as in previous actions, the Singhs’ claims have been launched as a collateral attack on WorkSafe B.C. because they don’t like the regulator’s decisions. The judge called their claim poorly drafted and difficult to understand. 

“The conduct of the plaintiffs and the present claim display all of the hallmarks commonly seen with vexatious litigants, including numerous technical deficiencies, causes of action unknown at law, and repeated improper and scandalous allegations that plainly have no merit,” Kent wrote in his ruling.

The Singhs represented themselves in this case as Kent declined to allow an unlicensed lawyer — Gerhard Pyper, who recently became a director of the two asbestos companies — to appear on their behalf in court.

In an earlier decision, the B.C. Court of Appeal had not allowed Pyper to represent the Singhs because it was decided his becoming a director of their companies was designed to circumvent the fact he was not licensed to practice law in B.C., according to the ruling.

Deaths caused by asbestos-related disease are the No. 1 workplace killer in B.C. and fatality rates are rising, according to WorkSafe B.C. statistics. In 2015, asbestos-related diseases accounted for 77 deaths.