McDonald’s, SciQuest and Lady Justice: Why The Canadian Judicial System Fails Its Citizens

Posted on March 28, 2016

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“The first casualty when war comes is truth.” – US Senator Hiram Warren Johnson, 1918

We are all familiar with the above quote in its various forms. The irony is that even the truth as to who actually coined the phrase, is the subject of debate. While many sources attribute it to Senator Walker, others credit either Arthur Ponsonby or Samuel Johnson as the author of these words.

Truth – even within the context of its use, is a difficult thing to grasp.

Nowhere is this elusiveness more evident than it is in the Canadian judicial system.

Sadly, justice in Canada is determined more by the size of one’s wallet, than it is the veracity of a particular case.

Ironically, I am directly involved with both of the cases below – although in each instance on opposite sides of the table. As you read further, you will understand what I mean, and how they are linked.

Close up of 100 dollar bills and gavel

Case #1 – McDonald’s: A Poisoned Shake

“McDonald’s admitted that there was a “store-related compound in a milk shake” that was ingested by our 5 year old son but refuse to disclose what it is. We want them to release the report’s findings.” – change.org petition

This was the headline of our petition on change.org, which currently has 28,379 signatures.

The case is quite simple.

On July 22nd, 2013 our family of six visited the local McDonald’s drive through, to order milkshakes and ice cream.

After being ridiculed for ordering in English, our then 5 year old son’s milkshake was spiked with what McDonald’s admitted was a “store-related compound.”

While acknowledging that there was something in the shake per their own lab’s report, McDonald’s has not yet admitted as to how said compound ended up in only 1 shake out of the 50 or so shakes they served that day. Or how his was the only shake, of the 3 we ordered, to have the compound in it. You of course do not have to strain too hard to connect the dots back to the language taunts.

If you followed the story through the many newspaper articles, or television and radio broadcasts in the mainstream media, you will know that McDonald’s offered $1,000, then $3,000, and finally $50,000 to settle, without any promise to ever divulge the contents of the shake.

We turned them down flat, indicating that all we wanted to know was what was in the shake, so that we could determine what if any health problems would or could arise with our son in the future.

We also wanted to know the truth in terms of what had happened, and who was responsible.

We even went so far as to offer to sign an agreement that we would not seek financial restitution beyond the legal fees we had incurred to that point in time, and the medical costs associated with any treatment our son would require as a result of what he had ingested.

Our son by the way, has issues with his bladder. While at this point, we do not know the origins of his condition, knowing what was in his shake would obviously help in terms of treatment. Even if it wasn’t related to his condition, knowing would alleviate our worst fears.

Despite this, McDonald’s refuses to release to us the results of the lab report.

In an effort to get to the truth, and find out what the store related compound was, we sought to hire a lawyer so that we could sue the company. We were told that such an action would cost $100,000 and that even if we were successful, McDonald’s would likely appeal and tie us up in court until they had drained every penny we had.

The lawyer with whom we spoke, indicated that he had witnessed this battle of attrition in a case involving McDonald’s and a smaller enterprise in a dispute over land.

Even if we had the $100K, and survived the war of attrition and ultimately won our case, according to the lawyer, we could not recoup a single penny of our legal costs. The reason is that Quebec does not allow costs to be recovered from the losing party.

The only remaining option was for us to involve the police in the hopes that they would be able to obtain a copy of the report. We filed an official complaint and, provided the authorities with the sample that we had carefully maintained in our freezer, in the hope that their labs would be able to identify the store-related compound that McDonald’s had acknowledged was in the shake.

We are still waiting for the results.

In the end, we weren’t interested in the money – which is why we offered to waive our right to sue for financial damages beyond our legal fees and our son’s medical bills. We were only interested in one thing . . . the truth. What was put in our son’s shake?

The Canadian judicial system has failed us simply because the size of McDonald’s wallet is considerably larger than ours.

Case 2 – SciQuest: A Campaign For Truth

“I gave the U. S. company opportunities to come forward and have their side of the story told – even going so far as to give them free and unfettered access to my readership.  For whatever reason, they declined. Instead, they turned to the courts and to lawyers and they have a bigger chequebook than mine. I hope that you will provide your support by way of a contribution to offset my legal costs – which I estimate will be approximately $100,000.” – March 21st, 2016 Procurement Insights

The above is an excerpt from my March 21st post on the Procurement Insights blog. In the article, I talk about my being sued for $3.5 million ($4.6 million Canadian), by a large U.S. company who took exception to my coverage of their challenges in the market.

Just a quick note, when it comes to Canada’s judicial system, $100,000 seems to be the magic number.

I wrote a series of articles on this U.S. corporation based on the information I received from a number of sources – including both former and current employees of the company.

This information included e-mails and other materials – such as audio/video evidence which, along with my corresponding research, substantiates the accuracy of my coverage.

Last August, I received a letter from this U.S. company threatening legal action in Canada – and specifically in Ontario where, unlike the United States and the Province of Quebec, the onus would fall on me to prove that what I had written was true. I have no problem with this, because I stand by everything I wrote. In fact, I even offered the company free and unfettered access to present their side of the story to my blog’s more than 24,000 followers. I also told them that I would welcome any additional information they could provide that would show where I had made a mistake, so that I could correct it. The company ignored this offer.

The problem I did have however, is that in Ontario I would likely have to reveal my sources. This is something that I did not want, nor do I now want, to do.

I filed a motion for a change in venue to either Quebec – where I reside, or the United States, where the company is based. By the way, my entire coverage is focused exclusively on their business in the United States, which is where the vast majority of their revenue is derived.

I lost the motion, which means that besides being hit with $22,000 in costs plus the legal fees of my own lawyers, I may be legally compelled to reveal the names of the people who came forward with information because they wanted to do what was right.

You can read about my coverage – including the two most recent articles, through the following link; https://www.gofundme.com/bloggerfund

In the meantime, we will now begin the process of going to trial so that the truth – not my version of the truth, or the U. S. Company’s version of the truth . . . but the truth, the whole truth, will come out.

In this regard, I am more than comfortable with the prospect of this happening, or as my father would say – letting the chips fall where they may.

However these chips, courtesy of the Canadian judicial system, cost $100,000, of which I will only be able to recover 60 to 70 percent of these fees, when I am successful.

Faced with such a daunting amount, the easiest thing for me to have done, would have been to fold up my tent and pull down the posts when I first received the letter threatening action. Or when I received the SLAPP document indicating that a lawsuit was imminent, or at any other stage before spending $22K plus legal fees.

But what about the truth?

Similar to our battle with McDonald’s – where it might have been easier to simply take the $50K and hope for the best, we now realize that truth and justice are not synonymous. Okay, maybe this revelation is not a complete surprise, but it was certainly disappointing.

The truth, is the truth. It can’t be bought or sold, it just is. Whether it be in the form of an unidentified store-related compound, or in the text and audio from reliable sources, it is what it is. (NOTE; if you want to put me up to the light of scrutiny with regard to the thoroughness of my research and resulting coverage, check out these other stories; NIGP #CodeGate and, the recent Manitoba Hydro $85 million tender controversy.)

Getting to that truth is where justice is supposed to come into the picture. But unfortunately, justice comes at a price, and that price represents an oppressively heavy cost in which only those who have the largest wallets can gain access.

bankroll

The contradiction is that in cases such as the ones above, those who have the means, do not necessarily have the desire for the truth to come out.

Regarding the SciQuest Case: For those who want to support this cause so that we can continue to fight for the truth, you can by making a small donation through the following link: https://www.gofundme.com/bloggerfund

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Posted in: Commentary