An Ontario appeal court in June upheld damages awarded to an independent contractor whose fixed-term contract did not include a termination clause, Law Times reported.

According to court documents, Metro Freightliner Hamilton Inc. et al contracted with Antonio Monterosso, an independent contractor truck driver for a 72-month term, effective March 7, 2017. Metro Freightliner terminated Monterosso’s services without cause on Nov. 22, 2017. Monterosso sued for the remaining 65 months of the contract. Finding the contract did not have a termination provision and that it clearly and unambiguously provided for a 72-month fixed term, the trial judge awarded Monterosso $552,500 plus harmonized sales tax.

Unambiguous Contract

On appeal, Metro Freightliner argued the trial judge failed to consider additional correspondence demonstrating that the contract was amended to indicate payment to the contractor would be paid up until the last day of active service. The appeal court rejected the argument — and additional arguments that the trial judge erred in resolving ambiguity in favor of the respondent — stating that the submitted correspondence was ambiguous, whereas the contact was clear and unambiguous.

The appeal also asserted the trial judge erred in holding that the respondent was not required to mitigate his damages, according to court documents. The duty to mitigate refers to a party’s obligation to make reasonable efforts to limit the harm they suffer from another party’s actions, according to Cornell Law School.

The court found that the independent contractor in this case did indeed have a duty to mitigate. “Of course, the terms of a contract may provide otherwise. However, nothing in this case takes it outside the normal circumstances in which mitigation is required,” the court noted, adding that “there was no basis for the trial judge to conclude that the respondent was not required to mitigate.”

However, the burden was on Metro Freightliner to establish that Monterosso failed in his duty to mitigate, and the appeal court found that burden was not met. Rather, Monterosso filed extensive evidence detailing his unsuccessful job search efforts, the appeal court noted.