Monday, August 5, 2013

Adverse inference properly taken for failure to call witnesses

Stetler v. Stetler, 2013 ONCA 508 approves of an adverse inference made by a trial judge on the basis that witnesses who could have been called were not. This is helpful because the use of an adverse inference for failure to call witnesses is infrequent. Here is the passage of the trial judge approved by the Court of Appeal:

[7]          I have not had the help of any expert witness but it seems to me that through two separate divorce proceedings, this man's character is defined. He will not tell the court what his income is and defies us to guess. He is not cooperating at all, nor is he following his duty at law to provide us with updated financial information. Moreover, I must draw an adverse inference from his failure to call his sister (the accountant) and his father who could have corroborated his evidence or given us the truth with respect to the amount of money that his father has paid him and whether or not he intends to collect on his mortgage debt. While there is no scientific reason to do this, I prefer to impute income of $36,000 per annum to the Applicant. He refused to help himself out or prove me wrong and it is his obligation to demonstrate what his income is. Moreover, he is about to take over the farm from his 75 year old father and there is no evidence of any physical or mental impairment to his working full-time and earning a decent living. In fact, he runs a small construction concern, receiving income, some of which he didn't declare.

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