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New Brunswick Court Expands Granting Summary Judgement in the Context of Rear-End Collisions

Irwin v Swift et al, 2022 NBCA 35

Reading Time: 3 minutes (approx.)

By: Chloe Jardine (Articled Clerk)

This decision arises from a 2018 motor vehicle accident, in which a vehicle driven by Corey Irwin (“the Appellant”) was struck from behind by a vehicle driven by Shelley Swift and registered to her husband, Ronald Swift. Michelle Narvey (“the Respondent Narvey”) was a passenger in the Appellant’s vehicle at the time of the collision.

The Respondent Narvey filed legal action against the Swifts, who subsequently filed a Third-Party Claim against the Appellant. A motion for summary judgment by the Appellant was denied, leading to this appeal.

Summary judgement is governed by Rule 22.04 of the New Brunswick Rules of the Court. This states that a Court can grant summary judgment if (1) there is no genuine issue that requires a trial, or (2) the parties agree to have all, or part of a claim decided by summary judgement and the Court is satisfied that this is appropriate.

The use of summary judgement has become increasingly encouraged when a trial judge can confidently make a decision based on available facts, can apply the facts to the law, and is proportionate to the present issues. The New Brunswick Court of Appeal states that there are benefits in alleviating the Court of unnecessary trials balanced with alleviating parties from burdensome litigation costs. Proportionality is emphasized as the basis for this modern approach to summary judgement.

The Court presents the general understanding that in a rear end collision scenario, there is an onus on the rear vehicle to demonstrate how they are not at fault. The Swifts argued that their collision with the Appellant was not a routine rear-end collision, as they allege the Appellant was negligent in appropriately slowing to the traffic in front of him. While the Court believed it possible that other factors, such as the Appellant’s speed, may have impacted the accident, it determined that this would be mere speculation without evidentiary basis.

The Court considered the use of summary judgement broadly; ultimately, the Appellant was granted summary judgment and the Third-Party Claim against him was dismissed.

Link: https://www.canlii.org/en/nb/nbca/doc/2022/2022nbca35/2022nbca35.html?resultIndex=1

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