Garcia v. Tahoe Resources Inc.

On November 9, 2015, the Supreme Court of British Columbia released its decision and reasons for judgment in favour of Tahoe Resources Inc. in the case of Garcia v. Tahoe Resources Inc.

The decision comes after a three day hearing in April 2015, in which Tahoe asked the Supreme Court of British Columbia to decline jurisdiction to adjudicate the plaintiffs’ claims and to stay the action.

The lawsuit was filed in June 2014, by seven Guatemalan nationals who sought damages for injuries they claim to have suffered at the hands of security personnel while protesting at Tahoe’s Escobal Mine in Guatemala in April 2013.

According to Justice Gerow’s summary of the background in this decision: “All of the plaintiffs reside in San Rafael Las Flores, Guatemala. All of them work in Guatemala as farmers. None speak English. At the time of the incident, they were protesting the construction of the Escobal mine.

The plaintiffs allege they were shot at close range by Tahoe security personnel while protesting peacefully on the road outside the gates of the Escobal mine.”

As noted in the decision, “Tahoe has no officers or employees in British Columbia. The majority of Tahoe’s directors reside in Reno, Nevada. There are three directors who reside in British Columbia, and two who reside in Ontario … Tahoe is a company registered in British Columbia. Its business headquarters are in Reno, Nevada.”

The plaintiffs alleged, among other things, that Tahoe was negligent for failure to institute procedures and oversight to ensure that security personnel complied with international guidelines and principles. This case is one of a number of other such tort cases that have recently been launched in Canada against parent companies with subsidiaries operating in foreign countries.

In the Garcia case, Tahoe argued that Guatemala was clearly the more appropriate forum for determination of the plaintiffs’ claims. The judge granted Tahoe’s application and held that Tahoe established Guatemala as the more appropriate forum for the determination of this case.

Tahoe was represented by McMillan LLP who worked in collaboration with Tahoe’s counsel based in Reno, Nevada and counsel and expert witnesses based in Guatemala. The McMillan team was led by Karen Carteri and consisted of Amandeep Sandhu, Robert Wisner and Kaitlyn Meyer.

Joe Fiorante, QC, and Reidar Mogerman of Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman acted for the plaintiffs.