Monday, June 9, 2014

Partial summary judgment not appropriate where complex interrelated matters exist

Baywood Homes Partnership v. Haditaghi, 2014 ONCA 450:

[34]       Karakatsanis J. noted, at para. 60:

The "interest of justice" inquiry goes further, and also considers the consequences of the motion in the context of the litigation as a whole. For example, if some of the claims against some of the parties will proceed to trial in any event, it may not be in the interest of justice to use the new fact-finding powers to grant summary judgment against a single defendant. Such partial summary judgment may run the risk of duplicative proceedings or inconsistent findings of fact and therefore the use of the powers may not be in the interest of justice. On the other hand, the resolution of an important claim against a key party could significantly advance access to justice, and be the most proportionate, timely and cost effective approach.

[35]       The motions judge was obliged to assess the advisability of a staged summary judgment process in the context of the "litigation as a whole." This he failed to do.

[36]       As noted, the promissory notes and Third Release were part and parcel of the same series of transactions: the promissory notes were executed in connection with the grant of the Option to Purchase, and the Third Release was executed in connection with the exercise of that Option. Given that, the motions judge's attempt to detach the Third Release from the web of paper that was, quite rightly, cause for the motions judge's concern, was not the appropriate approach. If, as he concluded, the promissory notes were questionable because the parties "fabricated and executed documents that did not reflect the true state of affairs", and were therefore not amenable to enforcement on a motion for summary judgment, then the same could well be true of the Third Release.

[37]       In the complex situation in this case, it is therefore entirely possible that the trial judge who hears the trial of the issue on the validity of the promissory notes will develop a fuller appreciation of the relationships and the transactional context than the motions judge. That could force a trial decision on the promissory notes that would be implicitly inconsistent with the motions judge's finding that the Third Release is fully valid and effective, even though the parties would be bound by that finding. The process, in this context, risks inconsistent findings and substantive injustice.

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