Photo: Marta Iwanek

A look at lawsuits

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Our school has been served with a number of lawsuits over the years. We’re not sure why, but VP Administration and Finance Julia Hanigsberg offered up a suggestion in March 2010: “We’re a $400-million budget institution and big institutions face legal issues and that’s just how it is. That is in a sense just a cost of doing business in our world.”
We’re still not sure if that’s a good answer, but here is a sampling of the more outrageous lawsuits, both in terms of cost and absurdity.

  • In May, Ted Rogers School of Business associate dean James Norrie sued Ryerson for $575,000 when he was banned from campus after other staff complained he was being inappropriate. The school put Norrie on paid leave in March while it investigated complaints from staff of “profanity directed at persons, ridiculing or belittling persons and other inappropriate action,” according to court information. Norrie claims the school breached his employee contract and damaged his reputation by placing him on leave. Although he was banned from campus, he kept teaching one course because the school couldn’t find a replacement. He is also seeking an apology in a national newspaper.
  • In 2010, Rye found itself threatened by a $10 million class-action lawsuit. The plaintiff, former Rye student Chris Avenir, was charged with academic misconduct  in 2008 for overseeing a Facebook study group for a third-year engineering class. He was charged on grounds that the group was a way to share test answers. Avenir appealed the charge. In 2010, he sued the school for $250,000, angry that the school doesn’t provide students with a lawyer until an academic misconduct appeal reaches the Senate, which is the final decision-making body. He said the procedure should follow the provincial Statutory Procedure Act, and that the school violated the act by not allowing students to be represented in earlier stages of the appeal process. When the Eyeopener last checked in on this story, a judge was needed to approve the class-action, which woul include every student who had been involved in an academic misconduct tribunal since 2003.
  • In 2009, now-defunct radio station CKLN sued Ryerson University and the RSU for $550,000, claiming the university had been withholding the station’s membership fees for two years. The RSU said they had been withholding the fees because of a  power struggle between two boards of directors, both claiming they represented the station. The current RSU president, Muhammad Ali Jabbar, said the RSU planned to hold the fees in trust until they knew who actually represented CKLN.
  • In 2008, Ephat Matemba came back after a vacation to find out that after 15 years, he no longer had a job at Ryerson.  Matemba worked maintaining the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system on campus, but was technically employed by a company called Residential Property Services. While he was away, Ryerson terminated its contract with the company. Matemba sued the school for $100,000 for not providing him with notice of termination or any sort of severance pay and benefits. The university wouldn’t claim responsibility as his employer, even though our administration determined his work hours and gave him tasks.
  • After the George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre was built in 2007, Sears sued Ryerson over the naming of the building. The lawsuit claimed that in exchange for a $10-million donation, the school had agreed to name an academic facility after the company. Instead, Sears got a plaque. Ryerson claimed Sears only donated $6.4 million, and that the company approved the plaque when it was presented.
  • A film student’s final project resulted in a $1-million lawsuit when a participant in his project was hit on the head by a light on set. Tijana Popovic sued Ryerson in November 2006, claiming she suffered headaches, dizziness and fatigue after a movie light on set fell over and struck her on the head.  She claimed to have suffered pain and a loss of enjoyment of life. The lawsuit alleged the student, Kai Wan Lawrence Li, didn’t inspect his equipment or adhere to Ryerson policies about filming off school grounds.

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