Thursday, January 23, 2014

Two step test for Summary Judgment

Hryniak v. Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7:

Summary judgment motions must be granted whenever there is no genuine issue requiring a trial.  There will be no genuine issue requiring a trial when the judge is able to reach a fair and just determination on the merits on a motion for summary judgment.  This will be the case when the process (1) allows the judge to make the necessary findings of fact, (2) allows the judge to apply the law to the facts, and (3) is a proportionate, more expeditious and less expensive means to achieve a just result. The new fact‑finding powers granted to motion judges in Rule 20.04 may be employed on a motion for summary judgment unless it is in the interest of justice for them to be exercised only at trial.  When the use of the new powers would enable a judge to fairly and justly adjudicate a claim, it will generally not be against the interest of justice to do so.  The power to hear oral evidence should be employed when it allows the judge to reach a fair and just adjudication on the merits and it is the proportionate course of action.  While this is more likely to be the case when the oral evidence required is limited, there will be cases where extensive oral evidence can be heard.  Where a party seeks to lead oral evidence, it should be prepared to demonstrate why such evidence would assist the motion judge and to provide a description of the proposed evidence so that the judge will have a basis for setting the scope of the oral evidence. On a motion for summary judgment under Rule 20.04, the judge should first determine if there is a genuine issue requiring trial based only on the evidence before her, withoutusing the new fact‑finding powers.  There will be no genuine issue requiring a trial if the summary judgment process provides her with the evidence required to fairly and justly adjudicate the dispute and is a timely, affordable and proportionate procedure, under rule 20.04(2)(a).  If there appears to be a genuine issue requiring a trial, she should then determine if the need for a trial can be avoided by using the new powers under Rules 20.04(2.1) and (2.2).  Their use will not be against the interest of justice if they will lead to a fair and just result and will serve the goals of timeliness, affordability and proportionality in light of the litigation as a whole. Failed, or even partially successful, summary judgment motions add to costs and delay.  This risk can be attenuated by a judge who makes use of the trial management powers provided in Rule 20.05 and the court's inherent jurisdiction.  These powers allow the judge to use the insight she gained from hearing the summary judgment motion to craft a trial procedure that will resolve the dispute in a way that is sensitive to the complexity and importance of the issue, the amount involved in the case, and the effort expended on the failed motion.  Where a motion judge dismisses a motion for summary judgment, in the absence of compelling reasons to the contrary, she should also seize herself of the matter as the trial judge.  

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