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Fiduciary duty

President/CEO Ordered to Pay Punitive Damages to Prior Employer

On October 4, 2023, the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta rendered a very significant decision by awarding the Corporate Employer punitive damages against its prior President and CEO, in the case of Breen v. Foremost Industries Ltd. 2023 ABKB 552.  

The Court awarded $50,000.00 for punitive damages which was the amount sought by the Corporate Employer.  What is also significant here is that the Court stated it “might have been inclined to award a much higher amount, had the Foremost Group asked for it.” 

In this case, the Plaintiff commenced employment in 2002 with the Defendant and rose up the ranks to President & CEO, and was terminated for just cause in 2014.  The Plaintiff brought an action for wrongful dismissal and the Defendant counter-claimed for breaches of fiduciary duty, etc. and punitive damages.  The Court dismissed the Plaintiff’s action and awarded the Employer over $480,000.00 for, inter alia, damages arising from his breaches of fiduciary duty, PLUS punitive damages in the amount of $50,000.00.   

This case underscores the high standards that senior executives are held to by virtue of their fiduciary role with the Employer which imposes fiduciary obligations of good faith, loyalty and avoidance of conflicts of interest. 

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