Appeal court to consider summary judgment rule

The Ontario Court of Appeal is set to deliver long-awaited guidance on judges’ authority to use the summary judgment rule.

The matter is a key one for lawyers in the province, who have been eager to see just how the courts will deal with changes to the wording related to summary judgment under the revised Rules of Civil Procedure. The new Rule 20 allows summary judgment if there’s “no genuine issue requiring a trial.” The old provisions referred to “no genuine issue for trial.”

As Law Times reported last week, the issue came up in a case involving a slip-and-fall by a Canada Post worker. In that matter, the federal government sued the owners of the home where the worker fell. But Superior Court Justice Denis Power found the plaintiff had failed to provide evidence that the homeowners hadn’t met the standard of care and dismissed the case. In doing so, he said he felt comfortable falling in line with one judicial line of thought that says judges can make findings of fact in order to grant summary judgment.

In one of the cases before the appeal court, businessman Robert Hryniak is challenging Superior Court Justice Duncan Grace’s summary judgment ruling ordering him to pay investors $2 million in a civil fraud case. The plaintiffs also sought summary judgment against Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP and its former managing partner, Gregory Jack Peebles. Grace dismissed motions for summary judgment against Cassels Brock and Peebles. Instead, he ruled a trial would be necessary in those cases. But Hryniak is now alleging the judge went too far in his use of the rule, the Financial Post reported.

The cases dealing with summary judgment, including Bruno Appliance v. Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP, are before the appeal court this week. The Bruno Appliance matter is set for Wednesday.

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