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Combined Air Mechanical Services Inc. v. Flesch, 2011 ONCA 764 (rule 20 – summary judgment)

Judgment Released: December 5, 2011   Link to Judgment

The Court of Appeal has now released its omnibus decision on the new summary-judgment rule.

Three types of cases are amenable to summary judgment:

(1) cases where the parties agree to summary judgment;

(2) cases where the claims or defences are without merit; and

(3) cases where the interests of justice do not “require” that the issues be resolved at a trial.

The third category is a result of the new Rule 20 and its change in the text of the rule from “genuine issue for trial” to “genuine issue requiring a trial”. The Court introduced the “full appreciation test”, which asks whether  “the full appreciation of the evidence and issues that is required to make dispositive findings be achieved by way of summary judgment, or can this full appreciation only be achieved by way of a trial?”  The “full appreciation test” will be used to determine whether, in the interests of justice, the issues raised in an action require the unique forensic machinery of a trial, or whether instead, the issues can be appropriately resolved with summary judgment, using the motion judge’s new expanded powers under rule 20.04(2.1).

The Court held that in “deciding whether to use the powers in rule 20.04(2.1), the motion judge must consider if this is a case where meeting the full appreciation test requires an opportunity to hear and observe witnesses, to have the evidence presented by way of a trial narrative, and to experience the fact-finding process first-hand. Unless full appreciation of the evidence and issues that is required to make dispositive findings is attainable on the motion record – as may be supplemented by the presentation of oral evidence under rule 20.04(2.2) – the judge cannot be “satisfied” that the issues are appropriately resolved on a motion for summary judgment.”

The Court also observed that “it is not necessary for a motion judge to try to categorize the type of case in question. In particular, the latter two classes of cases we described are not to be viewed as discrete compartments. For example, a statement of claim may include a cause of action that the motion judge finds has no chance of success with or without using the powers in rule 20.04(2.1). And the same claim may assert another cause of action that the motion judge is satisfied raises issues that can safely be decided using the rule 20.04(2.1) powers because the full appreciation test is met. The important element of the analysis under the amended Rule 20 is that, before using the powers in rule 20.04(2.1) to weigh evidence, evaluate credibility, and draw reasonable inferences, the motion judge must apply the full appreciation test in order to be satisfied that the interest of justice does not require that these powers be exercised only at a trial.

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