Judgment Released: May 8, 2012 Link to Judgment
The Ontario Court of Appeal dealt with an appeal where summary judgment had been granted by the Court below, prior to the release of Combined Air. The OCA noted that the Court in Combined Air indicated that the “full appreciation” test would likely be met in cases that are largely driven by documents, in which testimonial evidence and contentious factual issues are limited, and the test is unlikely to be met in cases in which there are multiple factual issues involving conflicting evidence from a number of witnesses and a voluminous evidentiary record.
Nevertheless, the OCA upheld the decision of the motion judge in this case, finding that, despite the voluminous evidentiary record and conflicting evidence from a number of witnesses, the Combined Air formulation of the summary judgment test was met. The OCA found that the record enabled the application judge to have a “full appreciation” of the evidence and issues required to make the findings he did. The OCA noted that the voluminous evidentiary record in this case was due to the complexity of the transactions and the relationships among the parties however, relatively few documents bear on the one issue on which the case turns: whether one of the defendants was retained by the plaintiff as its agent to help the plaintiff purchase the property in question. The OCA went on to note that despite the conflicting evidence from a number of witnesses, most of the points of disagreement were minor or about issues that were not material. Further, while the motion judge was aware that credibility findings should not be made on a summary judgment motion (which he avoided), he was still able decide that a trial was not required to determine the central issue in dispute by concluding that the testimony in favour of the plaintiff’s position would be insufficient in law to establish the agency relationship asserted by the plaintiff “given the strength of the documentary evidence, together with the evidentiary record as a whole, in contradicting [the plaintiff's witnesses] in their assertion.” The OCA concluded that this was a determination the motion judge was entitled to make; in the face of the facts established by the documentary and other evidence, it was open to the motion judge to conclude that the plaintiff could not obtain judgment in its favour at trial as the plaintiff simply could not fulfill its burden of proof.