The Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Bhasin v. Hrynew – on which this blog has commented – marked a sea change in Canadian contract law. In Bhasin, the Court recognized an “organizing principle of good faith” in contractual relations that underpins numerous specific doctrines, including, for example, unconscionability and the treatment of discretionary contractual powers.… Continue Reading
As we reported here, the BC Court of Appeal in Acciona Infrastructure Canada Inc. v. Allianz Global Risks US Insurance Company grappled with the proper interpretation of the LEG 2/96 defective workmanship exclusion common in many builder’s risk insurance policies. Applying general principles of contract interpretation the Court held that the exclusion is restricted to denying only those costs that would have been incurred to prevent the damage from happening. Having been unsuccessful on the appeal, the Insurers filed an application for leave to the Supreme Court of Canada.… Continue Reading
Policyholders recently won a key victory at the Supreme Court of Canada in Ledcor Construction Ltd. v. Northbridge Indemnity Insurance Co. as the Supreme Court clarified the interpretation of a standard form faulty workmanship exclusion clause common in builder’s risk policies. The decision has wide-reaching significance to other insurance coverage disputes and to contract law generally.
The Supreme Court confirmed that only the cost to redo the faulty work is precluded from coverage by such an exclusion. Builder’s risk, or “course of construction” insurance policies seek to insure against certain defined risks which may occur during the construction process. Such … Continue Reading
Two companion decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada were recently released in cases included on our Appeals to Watch in 2016 list, Ferme Vi-Ber inc. v. Financière agricole du Québec, 2016 SCC 34, and Lafortune v. Financière agricole du Québec, 2016 SCC 35.
Both cases involved the interpretation of the same Québec farm producer income stabilization program (the “ASRA Program”) administered by La Financière agricole du Québec (“La Financière), a statutory authority. The appeals focused on whether the ASRA Program should be governed by public administrative law principles or the private rules of contract law.… Continue Reading
In Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation Ltd c Hydro-Québec, 2016 QCCA 1229 (English translation here), the Quebec Court of Appeal seemed to contemplate that there may exist a duty to renegotiate a long-term contract where unforeseen circumstances arise which amount to hardship; however, the Court found the facts of the case did not give rise to such a situation so there could be no obligation to renegotiate the contract at issue.
The dispute related to a power contract signed in 1969 between Hydro-Québec and the Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation Limited (“CFLCo”) whereby CFLCo agreed to supply, and … Continue Reading
We may be into the lazy days of midsummer, but the Supreme Court of Canada (“SCC”) has been busy, releasing a number of important decisions in the areas of insurance, contract, labour & employment, constitutional, property, evidence and administrative law.
Since our last SCC Monitor post, the SCC has released the following judgments of interest:… Continue Reading
Geoff Hall, senior litigator at McCarthy Tétrault, authors the newly published third edition of Canadian Contractual Interpretation Law. The book clearly sets out the principles governing the interpretation of contracts in Canada, particularly in light of the landmark decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada in Sattva and Bhasin.
These two cases – both of which cited the second edition of Mr. Hall’s book, and were successfully argued by litigators from the firm – transformed contractual interpretation in fundamental ways, firstly by recognizing contractual interpretation as a highly fact-driven exercise and secondly by recognizing an organizing principle of … Continue Reading
Globe Motors, Inc. & Ors v. TRW Lucas Varity Electric Steering Ltd. & Anor,  EWCA Civ. 396 is the latest statement of the England and Wales Court of Appeal with respect to whether parties can make an oral amendment to a contract, notwithstanding a clause requiring any amendment to be in writing (an “anti-oral amendment” clause).… Continue Reading
The Alberta Court of Appeal strengthened the post-Hryniak judicial trend in favour of the summary disposition of litigation without trial by upholding the decision of a chambers judge to grant summary dismissal without strict adherence to the applicable Rules of Court. In Pyrrha Design Inc v Plum and Posey Inc, 2016 ABCA 12, the plaintiff applied for summary judgment but failed to make its case. It saw not just its application, but its entire claim, dismissed, even though the defendant had not brought a cross-application for summary dismissal.… Continue Reading
The difference between the mandatory “shall” and the permissive “may” in a contract is, perhaps typically, straightforward. One mandates action; the other allows, but does not require, it. This analysis can be more complex in the context of an arbitration agreement: can a party to the agreement force a stay of litigation based on a clause that states the parties may submit the dispute to arbitration? The Privy Council in Anzen Limited v. Hermes One Limited faced essentially this question, and, in part based on Ontario Court of Appeal jurisprudence, held that the answer is yes.… Continue Reading
In the 14 months since the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its landmark decision in Bhasin v. Hrynew, 2014 SCC 71  the general organizing principle of good faith in contract law has been applied in a very restrained manner by courts across Canada. The recent decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Bank of Montreal v. Javed, 2016 ONCA 49 is a further example of this trend.… Continue Reading
In the recent decision of 1196303 Ontario Inc v Glen Grove Suites Inc, 2015 ONCA 580, the Ontario Court of Appeal considered to what extent parties not privy to an agreement should be held liable for the obligations it creates.
In that case, 1196303 Ontario Inc. (“119”) entered into a settlement agreement with 1297475 Ontario Inc. (“129”), a shell corporation which was owned by Mrs. Sylvia Hyde. Mrs. Hyde was also the sole owner of Glen Grove Suites Inc. (“Glen Grove”), which owned valuable rental property. Mr. Edwin Hyde, who exercised de facto… Continue Reading
The common law penalty rule is poorly understood but can have disastrous consequences for contracting parties who do not consider it when setting out remedies for contractual breach. The UK Supreme Court recently brought some much needed clarity to the rule and articulated a revised test in a pair of decisions: Cavendish v Talal and ParkingEye v Beavis. The two decisions consider the rule in very different contexts: Cavendish in the valuation of assets in a share sale and ParkingEye in the imposition of a charges for violating parking lot time limits.… Continue Reading
In Uniprix v. Gestion Gosselin et Bérubé Inc., 2015 QCCA 1427, the Quebec Court of Appeal addressed the previously unanswered question of whether the non-renewal clause in a fixed term contract may be stipulated to be for the benefit only of one of the contracting parties, such that in the eyes of the other contracting party the contract may in effect become perpetual.… Continue Reading
Two companies based in different provinces enter into a contract. One company sues the other for breach of that contract. If the contract does not say which province’s laws govern the agreement, how does a court determine which law to apply? The Ontario Court of Appeal recently addressed this question – the choice of law rule for contracts – in Lilydale Cooperative Limited v. Meyn Canada Inc. (“Lilydale”).
Fire in A Poultry Plant… Continue Reading
We live in an increasingly interconnected world with trade liberalization and globalization continuing unabated. These changes present many opportunities for businesses but also raise new challenges for businesses operating across borders.… Continue Reading
A few months ago, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in Bhasin v Hrynew, a precedent-setting judgment, recognizing a general organizing principle of good faith in contract law. More recently, the BC Court of Appeal in Moulton Contracting Limited v. British Columbia, considered and elaborated upon Justice Cromwell’s discussion in Bhasin about the doctrines of good faith and implied contractual terms for “business efficacy,” clarifying that the two frameworks are distinct and not to be conflated.… Continue Reading
Trusts are widely used in commercial transactions. But, as creatures of equity, trusts raise issues that may not be immediately familiar to everyone who relies on them in the commercial world. Indeed, the interrelationship between equitable doctrines and remedies and common law principles and remedies is complicated. Fortunately, the U.K. Supreme Court has revisited the issue in its recent decision in AIB Group (UK) Plc v. Mark Redler & Co Solicitors,  UKSC 58.
The British Columbia Court of Appeal’s decision in Roy v Kretschmer, 2014 BCCA 429 provides guidance on the element of reliance in the tort of deceit. It also holds that a contractual clause limiting liability is unenforceable even where the breaching party did not commit a criminal act or egregious fraud.
This decision is of interest to Canadian businesses because it suggests that where a contract has been breached, the breaching party can be sued in tort for hiding the circumstances of the breach if the non-breaching party relies on the breaching party’s fraudulent silence or misrepresentations. Further, in … Continue Reading
The Supreme Court of Canada has released a precedent-setting judgment in which it recognized, for the first time, that there is a general organizing principle of good faith in the performance of contracts throughout Canada: Bhasin v. Hrynew, 2014 SCC 71. The Bhasin case, which was successfully argued by Neil Finkelstein and Brandon Kain of McCarthy Tétrault’s Toronto litigation group, will be very important for Canadian businesses going forward. As a result of Bhasin, all contracts throughout Canada are now subject to a duty of, at a bare minimum, honest performance, which cannot be excluded by the terms … Continue Reading
In Hounga v Allen, the U.K. Supreme Court addressed an issue that has not received much attention from the courts recently: the defence of illegality, also called the “ex turpi causa” doctrine. The U.K. Supreme Court had the opportunity to shed light on this defense in the context of employment discrimination towards an illegal immigrant.
In the world of contractual interpretation, the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Sattva Capital Corp. v. Creston Moly Corp. is a blockbuster. Sattva does three significant things. First, it determines that contractual interpretation generally involves a mixed question of fact and law, not a question of law alone. That holding has major implications for appellate review of decisions involving issues of contractual interpretation, and represents the resolution of an issue that had previously divided provincial appellate courts. Second, Sattva emphasizes the importance to contractual interpretation of evidence of the surrounding circumstances or the factual matrix in which … Continue Reading
Clauses that exclude, or “release”, liability are widespread and critical to risk management for many businesses. Typically, such clauses stipulate that the signee waives the right to sue if they are injured while participating in certain activities. Inevitably, in the event that the signee is injured, a variety of arguments are put forward as to why the particular exclusion clause is unenforceable in the particular circumstances.
Recently, in 2010, the Supreme Court set out a new approach to the analysis of whether an exclusion clause is unenforceable in Tercon Contractors Ltd. v. British Columbia (Transportation and Highways), 2010 SCC … Continue Reading
In Rhebergen v. Creston Veterinary Clinic Ltd., 2014 BCCA 97, the British Columbia Court of Appeal granted the appeal of an employer veterinary clinic, Creston Veterinary Clinic (“CVC”), from a Supreme Court of British Columbia decision declaring unenforceable a contract clause requiring its employee, Dr. Stephanie Rhebergen, to pay CVC a prescribed amount in the event she was to compete with CVC within a certain period after the contract was terminated. Unlike conventional non-competition or non-solicitation clauses that constitute a restraint of trade, the clause before the BCCA contained no prohibition. Rather, the clause at issue was permissive in … Continue Reading