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 policies generally provide coverage for the owner of the property under construction, the general contractor, and all contractors and subcontractors working on the project. The exclusion at issue in this decision excluded from coverage “the cost of making good faulty workmanship”, but provided an exception for resultant damage (the “Exclusion Clause”). 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
The purpose of a pre-trial conference is to provide parties with a forum to obtain an appraisal from a judge of their respective positions on the outstanding issues between them, and provide an opportunity to openly negotiate a resolution of these issues. The ability of the parties to speak freely without concern that their positions in the litigation will be prejudiced is protected by Rules 50.09 and 50.10 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, which provide that (i) the statements made at a pre-trial conference cannot be used in the proceedings, and (ii) the pre-trial conference judge cannot preside at the trial of the matter: Continue Reading
A recent article, Procedure Trumps Substance: Alberta Court of Appeal Grants Certification in Warner v Smith & Nephew Inc, 2016 ABCA 223 (“Warner”), published on McCarthy Tétrault’s Canadian Class Actions Monitor blog may be of interest to readers of the Canadian Appeals Monitor blog. Kelli McAllister and Renee Reichelt explore the ongoing tension in certification motions where courts are to provide a meaningful screening device but refrain from assessing the merits of the claim.
In Warner, the Alberta Court of Appeal disagreed on whether to consider if a plaintiff can prove her claims at the certification stage. Justice Slatter, in dissent, noted at paragraph 112 that neither side could prove certain allegations relating to long-term effects of a hip-resurfacing device – neither science nor medicine had resolved the issue: “[i]f the scientists and doctors have been not been able to resolve this issue using the usual scientific methods (lab experiments, long term blind studies, etc.) how is it realistic to think that a trial judge is going to find the answer in a civil trial? A trial judge has no laboratory.” The majority was unmoved. The plaintiff did not need to establish the strength of her claim or whether expert evidence could prove it. Certification is a procedural motion only. Whether leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada will be sought in Warner remains to be seen. However, in Pro-Sys Consultants Ltd v Microsoft Corporation, 2013 SCC 57 the Supreme Court of Canada reaffirmed that certification is a meaningful screening device. How a court can meaningfully screen propose class actions without some consideration of the merits remains a divisive issue in class actions and a fertile ground for further appellate consideration.
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 Hydro-Québec agreed to purchase, substantially all of the power produced by the Churchill Falls Generating Station for a total term of 65 years. Following the execution of the contract, the price paid by Hydro-Québec turned out to be markedly lower than the commercial value of the power generated, as a result of increases in energy prices and the emergence of competitive energy markets in North America, although the contract remained marginally profitable for CFLCo. 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
Since our last post, the Supreme Court has granted and denied leave in a few significant cases that will be of interest to our readers.
Leave to Appeal Granted
Auditor Liability: Livent Inc v Deloitte & Touche
The SCC granted leave to appeal from the judgment of the Ontario Court of Appeal in Livent Inc v Deloitte & Touche, 2016 ONCA 11, which is an important decision concerning the liability of auditors for negligence. Continue Reading
If there’s one thing that most non-lawyers know about being questioned by the authorities, it’s that “anything said can and will be used against [you] in court”. And, if you’re already in court, then you can “take the Fifth” and refuse to answer a question whose answer may incriminate you.
Right? Not quite.
The privilege against self-incrimination operates differently in Canada than it does in the United States. Here, there is no “Fifth” for a witness to “take”. Unlike the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does not permit a witness to answer some questions but not others. Instead, it protects the accused from being compelled to testify in a criminal proceeding and prevents a witness’ evidence in one proceeding from being used to incriminate him in another. Continue Reading
In a decision of interest to barristers, the Ontario Court of Appeal held that the Law Society of Upper Canada is entitled to deference when regulating a lawyer’s in-court conduct in Groia v The Law Society of Upper Canada, 2016 ONCA 471 (“Groia”). The Court of Appeal affirmed the Law Society’s holding that it is professional misconduct to make allegations of prosecutorial misconduct or that impugn the integrity of opposing counsel, unless the allegations are made in good faith and with a reasonable basis.
Joseph Groia defended John Felderhof against securities charges brought by the Ontario Securities Commission (“OSC”). Felderhof had been a senior officer and director of Bre-X, a mining company that fraudulently claimed to have discovered a large gold deposit in the 1990s. At the end of his trial, Felderhof was acquitted of all charges (R v Felderhof, 2007 ONCJ 345). Continue Reading
Solicitor-client privilege is nearly sacrosanct in Canada. The circumstances in which it can be breached are limited and specific. Courts will not abide attempts by the Government to do away with privilege for expediency’s sake or overreach when limiting the application of the privilege. This was recently reinforced by the Supreme Court of Canada in two decisions that considered the CRA’s powers to compel information from lawyers and notaries: Canada (Attorney General) v. Chambre des notaires du Quebec and Canada (National Revenue) v. Thompson. Continue Reading
For decades members of the judiciary have publicly raised concerns about the swelling length and complexity of criminal cases. In October 2005, Justice Michael Moldaver, then of the Ontario Court of Appeal, stated:
Am I worried? You bet I am. Long criminal trials are a cancer on our criminal justice system and they pose a threat to its very existence. You see, ladies and gentlemen, if the criminal justice system does not enjoy the support and respect of those whom it is meant to serve; if criminal trials are seen by the public as little more than interminable games; if the public comes to view the system with distain and contempt, then the system will have lost its reason for being. And the consequences, I fear, will be serious.
If an individual is born in Alberta, lives and works in BC for more than a decade, then lives and works in Saskatchewan for more than a decade, then moves back to BC temporarily, while simultaneously searching for a residence in Costa Rica, where is this person domiciled?
If you answered Saskatchewan (where the individual had lived and worked for the past decade), British Columbia (where the individual was currently laying his head), or Costa Rica (where the person intended to live and work for the remainder of his days), your common sense has indeed betrayed you. The answer is actually Alberta (the place where the individual had not lived for several decades and had no intention of returning to). Welcome to the antiquated law of domicile. Continue Reading
A recent article, published on McCarthy Tétrault LLP’s Canadian ERA Perspectives blog may be of interest to readers of the Canadian Appeals Monitor blog.
Northern Superior Resources Inc. v. Ontario, now on its way to the Ontario Court of Appeal, raises the question of whether a resource company, rather than a First Nation, may bring a claim against the Crown arising out of an alleged breach of the Crown’s duty to consult Aboriginal peoples pursuant to s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982. Though the Court of Appeal is likely to limit its decision to the facts in this case, its reasoning could provide important guidance for both project proponents and governments as they work with each other and with First Nations to develop Canada’s natural resources.
In today’s litigation landscape 95% to 97% of all civil cases are settled without a trial. Settlement negotiations increasingly happen informally, over email, through a back-and-forth dialogue between counsel. What happens when one party steadfastly believes a settlement was reached and moves to enforce that settlement and the other party disagrees? This was the situation before the Federal Court of Appeal in Apotex Inc v Allergan Inc, where a collection of “without prejudice” letters and emails formed the basis for Allergan Inc (“Allergan”) to argue that Apotex Inc (“Apotex”) had agreed to settle a patent infringement case. It was against this backdrop the Federal Court of Appeal clarified the objective test for when a settlement agreement is reached, cautioning:
The requirement of an objective, mutual intention to create legal relations does not mean that there must be formality. Settlements need not be reached through counsel or in pre-planned, formal negotiations….Sometimes much to the surprise of clients and lawyers alike—seemingly idle conversations can have binding, legal consequences. Binding settlements can arise from impromptu, informal communications in relaxed, non-business settings.
In an important decision regarding the jurisdiction of the Federal Court in aboriginal claims, the Federal Court of Appeal has affirmed the right of the Pasqua First Nation to sue the Government of Saskatchewan in the Federal Court for breach of a settlement agreement on the basis of an attornment clause. In Canada v Peigan, 2016 FCA 133, Saskatchewan argued that notwithstanding the attornment clause, which directed that any disputes arising under the settlement agreement be determined by the Federal Court, it was immune from suit in the Federal Court and, alternatively, that the suit did not fall within the Court’s subject matter jurisdiction. The Federal Court of Appeal rejected both arguments, finding that the Federal Court possesses exclusive jurisdiction over the portions of the claim alleging a breach of Saskatchewan’s obligations under the settlement agreement. 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 good faith in Canadian contract law. The third edition can be purchased here.
In Rice v. Agence du revenu du Québec, 2016 QCCA 666, the Quebec Court of Appeal addressed arguments by status Indians that they should be exempt from the obligation to collect and remit gas taxes which are collected by the Agence du revenu du Quebec (“ARQ”) on behalf of both the province and the federal government. In doing so, the Court made it clear that status Indians who sell goods to non-Indian consumers cannot avoid the administrative burden of collecting and remitting taxes from their customers who are not exempt from taxation.
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).
The Québec Court of Appeal recently granted leave to appeal from Directeur des poursuites criminelles et pénales c. Cliche, 2016 QCCS 1288. To our knowledge, it is the first time the Court of Appeal agrees to rule on the scope of the Québec Lobbying Transparency and Ethics Act (“LTEA”).
Cliche, a windfarm business’ executive, was charged under the LTEA for failing to register as a lobbyist after he asked municipal officials to endorse his employer’s bid to a third party’s RFP and to champion the project before environmental regulators. The endorsement was meant to demonstrate the bid’s “social acceptability” and to prevent negative media coverage. Continue Reading
The Federal Court of Appeal recently clarified the applicable test for challenging a trade-mark that is clearly descriptive of a good’s place of origin, pursuant to s. 12(1)(b) of the Trade-marks Act, RSC 1985, c. T-13 (the “Act”). The Court also articulated how such a trade-mark could still be ruled distinctive, and, accordingly valid: good old fashioned proof!
The context for the decision in MC Imports Inc. v. AFOD Ltd., 2016 FCA 60  was a dispute between two importer-distributors of bagoong, a fish and shrimp based condiment from the Philippines. Continue Reading
On May 3rd, 2016, the Court of Appeal for Ontario (the “OCA”) overturned a decision of the Ontario Superior Court which had held that a franchisor’s parent company could never be liable to a franchisee of its subsidiary for breach of the duty of good faith under the Arthur Wishart Act (the “Act”). Continue Reading
The Ontario Court of Appeal recently reiterated several key principles in the context of class action certification motions. In Good v Toronto Police Services Board, 2016 ONCA 250 [Good], the Court of Appeal upheld the Divisional Court decision to certify the claim of Ms. Sherry Good as representative plaintiff (the “Representative Plaintiff”) in the proposed G20 class action against the Toronto Police Services Board (the “TPS”). The decision in Good reminds us of two very important considerations in class action proceedings: Continue Reading
It was widely hoped that the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Dunsmuir v. New Brunswick, 2008 SCC 9 (“Dunsmuir”) would simplify the judicial review of administrative action by limiting the scope of review to two standards: reasonableness and correctness. The divided Supreme Court of Canada opinion in Commission scolaire de Laval v. Syndicat de l’enseignement de la région de Laval, 2016 SCC 8 shows that there is still a long way to go before coherence and uniformity is brought to this area of law. Continue Reading
Leaves to Appeal Granted
Since our last post, the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) has granted leave in a couple significant cases that will be of interest to our readers:
Douez v. Facebook: Like or Dislike?