In both of our cases this month, defendants obtained Summary Judgments by Motion thereby avoiding liability and legal expenses. In one case, the Motion took place prior to Discovery while the other followed shortly after discovery on liability. Summary Judgment can be a useful tool in determining issues at an early stage.
NOVA SCOTIA GOVERNMENT INTRODUCES BILL TO RAISE CAP FOR MINOR INJURY TO $7,500
1. Only applies to motor vehicle accidents after April 28, 2010;
2. Not retroactive;
3. Limited to soft tissue injuries (likely so that fractures are
not caught by cap); and
4. Regulations defining terms should be in place by July 1, 2010
Further details will be provided in subsequent editions of our newsletter.
Roberts v. Thompson et al., 2010 NBQB 138
One morning in February 2007, a mini-van rear-ended a garbage truck stopped on the side of a rural highway while on its garbage-pickup run. The driver of the mini-van was blinded by the sun as he came around a curve in the road, and as a consequence did not see the garbage truck. The mini-van driver and his passengers all suffered injuries in the collision.
Subsequently , two of the passengers in the mini-van brought actions in negligence for damages. The first plaintiff named the mini-van owner/driver and the garbage truck’s owner and driver as co-defendants; the second plaintiff brought action only against the mini-van driver, who then joined the garbage truck’s owner and driver as third parties, claiming contributory negligence.
The owner and driver of the garbage truck brought motions for summary judgment in both actions, and these two motions were heard together. Their evidence was that at the time of the collision, the truck was at a complete stop for a garbage pickup within six inches of the snow bank on the side of the road. The garbage truck’s safety equipment consisted of lights and reflectors, all of which were in working order at the time.
The mini-van owner/driver gave evidence that the weather on the morning in question was clear and cold, and the road conditions were icy. He stated that he was coming around the curve at roughly 70 km/h when he was blinded by the sun. He then took his foot off of the accelerator and tried to coast through the glare. All of a sudden he saw a shadow, and he swerved to the left to try and avoid whatever was casting it but hit on the passenger side of the van.
An accident reconstruction expert’s report was submitted as evidence for the mini-van owner/driver. The report included a diagram and measurements of the crash site and a calculation of the angle of the sun at that time of year and time of day.
Mr. Justice Creaghan, in considering the evidence before him, noted that the expert’s report did not indicate how far the curve in the road was from the point at which the garbage truck was stopped. He found that the curve in the road had nothing to do with how or why the accident occurred. He also took notice of the fact that garbage collection is an essential service. In his view, the presence of the garbage truck on the side of the road did give rise to a potential hazard that approaching traffic had an obligation to manage, but did not amount to a breach of duty constituting negligence.
After reviewing the law relating to summary judgment, the judge found that the claims against the garbage truck owner and driver were without merit and that the dismissal of the actions at trial was a foregone conclusion. He therefore granted summary judgment and dismissed all the claims against the truck owner and driver in both actions, as well as awarding them costs of $1,000 as one sum covering both motions.
SAR Petroleum Inc. et al. v. Peace Hills Trust Company, 2010 NBCA 22, 2010 CarswellNB 165
In this case, the plaintiffs contracted in 2002 to build a gas-bar and convenience store for a third party. The third party obtained a loan from the defendant to finance construction. When the project hit delays and cost overruns, the third party fell behind in its payments to the plaintiffs, eventually resulting in a large amount owing. The defendant held back a portion of the loan funds, pursuant to its loan agreement with the third party. The plaintiff company then went into receivership in July 2003.
The plaintiffs argued that the third party’s late payments and non-payments constituted a breach of its contract with them, and that the breach was caused by the defendant’s holdback of the loan funds. Further, the plaintiffs claimed the defendant knew and intended its funding holdback would result in the breach. Thus, they claimed against the defendant for economic losses suffered as a result of the defendant’s allegedly interfering with their economic relations, specifically by inducing the breach of contract.
The defendant countered by bringing a motion for summary judgment. In the motion, the defendant cited its lack of intention to induce any breach of contract and argued that, absent such intention, the plaintiff’s claim against it was without merit. The motions judge agreed, granting summary judgment and dismissing the plaintiff’s action. The plaintiffs appealed.
In a lengthy written decision, Justice Robertson for a unanimous Court of Appeal carefully considered each element of the tort of inducing breach of contract. The Court noted in particular a recent decision from the U.K. House of Lords, OBG Limited v. Allan, which among other things cites the importance of proving intention to induce a breach as essential to making out a plaintiff’s case in this type of tort.
In this instance, the Court of Appeal agreed with the motions judge that the plaintiffs had failed to establish the defendant possessed the necessary intention to induce the third party to breach its contract.
As a side issue, the plaintiffs attempted to argue that summary judgment was not appropriate in this case as the defendant had never provided an Affidavit of Documents. However, the Court decided this was not a bar to the granting of summary judgment, as any undisclosed documents would not and could not impact the pivotal issue of whether the defendant had the intention to induce a breach of contract.
The Court concluded by stating that the defendant was justified in doing what it did and acted for a proper purpose. The appeal was dismissed, with costs of $3,500 to the defendant.