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Mehdi-Pour v. Minto Developments Inc. et al, 2011 ONSC 3571 (Divisional Court) (Rule 20 – summary judgment)

Judgment Released:  June 8, 2011  Link to Judgment

On an appeal to the Divisional Court from an order of a Master on a motion for summary judgment, where the Master dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim, the plaintiffs/appellants argued that the Master exceeded his jurisdiction under Rule 20.04 as the motion required a decision on a point of law respecting causation. The Divisional Court noted that while Rule 20.04 requires a Master who determines that the only genuine issue for trial is a question of law to adjourn the motion to a judge, the Rule does not mean that a Master cannot apply settled legal principles to the facts of the case, nor does it mean that a Master cannot find that there is no genuine question of law requiring trial. In dismissing the appeal, the Court concluded that the Master had the jurisdiction to apply the legal test for causation to the record before him in determining the motion for summary judgment.

The Court went on to note that the Master, when appropriate, can draw an adverse inference from the failure of a party to lead evidence on the motion.  In this case, the Master drew such an inference respecting, among other things, the plaintiffs’ failure to obtain an expert report responding to the expert report relied on by the defendants which directly challenged the basis of the plaintiffs’ claim and, after taking a hard look at the evidence, the Master concluded that the plaintiffs had not led appropriate evidence to support the elements of their claim at trial.

Mehdi-Pour v. Minto Developments Inc. et al, 2011 ONSC 3571 (Divisional Court) (Rule 20 – summary judgment)

Loat v. Howarth, 2011 ONCA 509 (O.C.A.) (Rule 20 – summary judgment)

Judgment Released: July 12, 2011  Link to Judgment  

In the context of an employment dispute, the plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment in relation to unpaid wages and termination pay allegedly owing to him by the defendant employer.  The motions judge dismissed the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment finding that there were facts in dispute and a genuine issue for trial.  The plaintiff appealed a portion of the dismissal of the motion on the basis that there was no genuine issue for trial respecting his claim for unpaid wages.  

In dismissing this aspect of the appeal, the Court of Appeal found that the motions judge correctly noted that there was a genuine issue for trial as the record before the Court established that many of the material facts concerning the question of the plaintiff’s unpaid wages were disputed, and that the resolution of this core issue will require credibility-based findings based on viva voce evidence.

The plaintiff’s further basis for appeal of the dismissal of the motion for summary judgment was that it was open to the motions judge to order or conduct the trial of an issue to resolve the unpaid wages claim, and the plaintiff alleged that the failure to do so constitutes a reversible error.  The Court of Appeal rejected that assertion, noting that the decision of whether to order or conduct the trial of an issue is a discretionary one and, in the circumstances of the case and given the allegations of the parties, it was within the motions judge’s discretion to decline to direct or conduct the trial of an issue on the unpaid wages claim.  Further, the motion judge’s decision in that regard attracts deference from the Court of Appeal.

Loat v. Howarth, 2011 ONCA 509 (O.C.A.) (Rule 20 – summary judgment)

Cusimano v. D.A.D. Construction Inc., 2011 ONSC 5707 (S.C.J.) (Rule 20 – summary judgment)

Judgment Released:  September 29, 2011   Link to Judgment

On a motion for summary judgment, the parties agreed that the applicable test on a Rule 20 motion was that articulated by Pepall J. in Canadian Premier Life Insurance Co. v. Sears Canada Inc., [2010] O.J. No. 3987 (S.C.J.) at para. 70, as follows:

  • -The court must be satisfied that there is no genuine issue requiring a trial.
  • -To be satisfied, the court may weigh the evidence, evaluate the credibility of a deponent, draw any reasonable inference from the evidence, and order that oral evidence be presented.  By implication, these powers may involve the making of factual findings including a finding of a material fact.
  • -The motions judge should take a hard look at all of the evidence to determine whether there is a genuine issue requiring a trial.
  • -The burden of proof to establish that there is no genuine issue requiring a trial is on the moving party.
  • -The respondent may not rest solely on the allegations or denials in its pleading.
  • -Each side should put its best foot forward.
  • -The Rule should be interpreted broadly so as to achieve the objectives of reduction of delay and costs, access to justice, and flexibility.  At the same time, it must be acknowledged that elimination of trials is not an objective.  At its core, justice is the ultimate objective.  It is not to be sacrificed in the interests of speed and economy.  That said, Rule 20 clearly contemplates that justice, speed and economy are not mutually exclusive attributes.
Cusimano v. D.A.D. Construction Inc., 2011 ONSC 5707 (S.C.J.) (Rule 20 – summary judgment)