Friday, August 22, 2014

Civil Summary Judgment

Density Group Limited v. HK Hotels LLC, 2014 ONCA 605:


[53]       As noted above, the Supreme Court's decision in Hryniak greatly expands the use of the summary judgment process for the resolution of civil disputes.

[54]       The decision makes it clear that the new fact-finding powers available to judges under Rules 20.04 (2.1) and (2.2) are discretionary and presumptively available: para. 45.

[55]       The Court directs that deference is owed to motion judges on summary judgment motions:

[81] In my view, absent an error of law, the exercise of powers under the new summary judgment rule attracts deference.  When the motion judge exercises her new fact-finding powers under Rule 20.04(2.1) and determines whether there is a genuine issue requiring a trial, this is a question of mixed fact and law. Where there is no extricable error in principle, findings of mixed fact and law, should not be overturned, absent palpable and overriding error [citation omitted].

[82] Similarly, the question of whether it is in the "interest of justice" for the motion judge to exercise the new fact-finding powers provided by Rule 20.04(2.1) depends on the relative evidence available at the summary judgment motion and at trial, the nature, size, complexity and cost of the dispute and other contextual factors.  Such a decision is also a question of mixed fact and law which attracts deference.

[83] Provided that it is not against the "interest of justice", a motion judge's decision to exercise the new powers is discretionary. Thus, unless the motion judge misdirected herself, or came to a decision that is so clearly wrong that it resulted in an injustice, her decision should not be disturbed.

[56]       The Supreme Court recognizes at para. 60 of its decision that it may not be in the "interest of justice" to grant summary judgment in favour of a single defendant if the matter must still go to trial: 

… [I]f 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.

[57]       On the other hand, summary judgment may be appropriate even if some claims must still proceed to trial, as was the case in Hryniak itself. The Court recognizes that "the resolution of an important claim against a key party could significantly advance access to justice": para. 60.

[58]       The Court also notes that "[p]rompt judicial resolution of legal disputes allows individuals to get on with their lives": para. 25. 

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