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My in-laws decided to try their hand at driving semi-trucks and found some random company in Ontario willing to "hire" them. I put that in quotes because they never actually signed any kind of a contract, everything was verbal. They were given a semi to drive and started making deliveries.

Eventually they got an order to deliver some perishable goods and something went wrong with the temperature control. When they arrived at the destination, the goods were ruined. The shipping company told them they are fired and wouldn't be getting their last paycheck. I'm still not sure whether the temperature being wrong was their fault or not.

The whole situation is bizarre to me, as I would never get into a truck and start driving without a contract that spells out liabilities, duties, payment, etc. But they are immigrants who were eager to get a job and don't really know what they should and shouldn't be doing.

This was a few months ago. Recently they got a call from some guy from "an insurance company" asking them if they remember that last trip before they got fired and would be willing to answer some questions. They said they were busy but would call him back. They are now wondering what their best course of action is.

Is it feasible that they might be held liable for cargo damage? Would it be best to answer the questions with as much detail as they remember, or claim they don't really recall much? Should they even agree to answer anything at all, or just tell the guy that they have no interest in discussing it and bid him farewell?

  • Are they there legally? I don't know anything about Canadian immigration laws compared to those of the U.S., but if this were in the U.S., I'd be inclined to say the company is illegally hiring people under the table and I would report them to the authorities. If that's the case, the company was neglectful in their hiring practices and they should be fully liable for any damages to the product. – childofsoong Nov 16 '16 at 19:45
  • @childofsoong yeah, they are completely legal. One is a citizen and the other is a permanent resident, but due to language barriers and lack of local education and experience they've had trouble finding stable work. – Egor Nov 16 '16 at 19:57
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    Well, I don't know Canadian law at all, but I don't think they should be liable for the damages to the product. That sounds like gross neglect on the part of the company. However, they should be careful, as they may have also violated laws in what they did. If it were the U.S., I'd say be cautious because you're not supposed to drive those vehicles with a commercial license, and you're also not supposed to work if you're not a citizen or have a work visa (only applies to the second one, in this case). – childofsoong Nov 16 '16 at 20:06
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    @childofsoong in Canada permanent residents can freely work, leave and re-enter the country, etc. It's the equivalent of the US "green card". They also have their appropriate drivers license for driving semi-trucks. As far as I know, they were completely legal to do what they were doing. They've actually found work with a more reputable shipping company with a real contract since then, doing exactly the same kind of work. – Egor Nov 16 '16 at 21:07
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    You would be stunned at the multimillion dollar transactions that are entered into with no paperwork whatsoever. An oral truck driving agreement does not surprise me in the least. – ohwilleke Nov 16 '16 at 21:51
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There are many things going on in this situation: their resident status (noted in comments), if they had commercial driving licenses (noted in comments), what - if anything - they wrote down of their verbal contract, who they dealt with at the company, how long they worked for them, what has been said to them since, if the "destination" company has threatened anything, the identity of "an insurance company", if the trucking company had insurance on the cargo (they must have) as well as the truck itself and on the drivers, etc.

I'd say they need legal advice to sort it all out. Legal advice is off-topic here; but my suggestion to get legal advice is not. And, I Am Not A Lawyer™.

I think they need legal advice to determine if

1) they can get their last paycheck from the trucking company (if they want to try to get it), and

2) know how to deal the phone calls from "an insurance company" as to what who they are, who they work for, what to say or what not to say or to ignore the calls, and

3) how to deal with the trucking company, if there has been any contact made, and the state of the company's insurance.

Take a look at Legal Aid Ontario http://legalaid.on.ca/en There also may be legal aid organizations in the town/city. And/or some law firms may do pro bono work.

  • Thanks, I'll get them to check out that Ontario legal aid. As far as I understand, they've had no contact with the company or anybody linked to it since their firing, and they don't want to try and get their last paycheck. They'd be happy never to hear from them again, and are just worried they might get sued for the cargo loss. – Egor Nov 16 '16 at 21:33
  • Well, hopefully the company has forgotten about them. And I doubt the people who suffered the cargo loss would see gaining any money from them. – BlueDogRanch Nov 16 '16 at 22:40
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Having no contract strongly implies that they were dealing with a dodgy company. Most likely no taxes were paid etc. That doesn't change the fact that they worked and need to be paid for their work.

The truck, the goods, the cooling system, were all supplied by the company, and not under their control. No truck driver would be responsible for the spoilt goods in that situation if all they did was step into the truck, drive from A to B, and find the goods are spoilt at the destination. (I actually know drivers who do that kind of thing and who get stuck with a broken cooling system sometimes, and that's all just part of the business, either insured or written off; no way would the employee pay).

To sue them for damages, the company would have to show a contract that says the driver is liable. Tough when you don't have a written contract. So your relatives should definitely go for their pay check.

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