Supreme Court of Canada Sets the Test for Summary Judgment

The Supreme Court of Canada today released a decision that resets the bar for how courts will deal with summary judgment motions in Ontario and, by effect, the other common law jurisdictions of Canada. In Hryniak v. Mauldin, The Supreme Court conducted a review of the history of the Ontario rules for summary judgment, the various changes and the interpretation of those changes by lower courts. While there will be much comment on the effect of the decisions, it certainly appears at first blush that the Court is intent on opening up the availability of summary judgment. Highlights of the decision include the following:

  • Undue process and protracted trials, with unnecessary expense and delay, can prevent the fair and just resolution of disputes;
  • A shift in culture is required.  The proportionality principle can act as a touchstone for access to civil justice;
  • Summary judgment motions provide an opportunity to simplify pre-trial procedures and move the emphasis away from the conventional trial in favour of proportional procedures tailored to the needs of the particular case;
  • Summary judgment rules must be interpreted broadly, favouring proportionality and fair access to the affordable, timely and just adjudication of claims;
  • The new powers in Rules 20.04(2.1) and (2.2) expand the number of cases in which there will be no genuine issue requiring a trial by permitting motion judges to weigh evidence, evaluate credibility and draw reasonable inferences;
  • Summary judgment motions must be granted whenever there is no genuine issue requiring a trial;
  • There will be no genuine issue requiring a trial where 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;
  • There will be no genuine issue requiring a trial if the summary judgment process provides a judge with the evidence required to fairly and justly adjudicate the dispute and is a timely, affordable and proportionate procedure;
  • If there appears to be a genuine issue requiring a trial, the judge 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);
  • Absent an error of law, the exercise of powers under the new summary judgment rule attracts deference.  The exercise of the fact‑finding powers under Rule 20.04(2.1) and a determination whether there is a genuine issue requiring a trial, are questions of mixed fact and law which should not be overturned, absent palpable and overriding error.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: