Canada: This Week At The SCC

Cases Heard

The Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments this week in two cases of interest to Canadian businesses and professions, and reserved judgment in each.

The first is an appeal from Newfoundland (Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission) v. Ryan Estate, 2011 NLCA 42.  It involves whether s. 6 of the federal Maritime Liability Act can authorize a civil action in respect of a workplace accident, even though s. 44 of the Newfoundland & Labrador Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act purports to bar such claims in favour of a no-fault compensation scheme.  The Newfoundland & Labrador Court of Appeal held that that provincial statute was constitutionally inapplicable and inoperative by virtue of the doctrines of interjurisdictional immunity and paramountcy, and thus could not preclude the plaintiffs' maritime negligence claims from proceeding under the federal enactment.  We discussed the Ryan case in a previous post.  The oral arguments before the Court may be viewed here, and the written arguments may be viewed here.

The second case involves an appeal from Rascal Trucking Ltd. v. Nishi, 2011 BCCA 348, in which the B.C. Court of Appeal held that a plaintiff who contributed money to the defendant's acquisition of property, without itself acquiring legal title, was entitled to a purchase-money resulting trust over an interest in the property proportionate to its monetary contribution.  The defendant argued that the plaintiff's monetary contribution was not made for the purpose of enabling the plaintiff to acquire the property, but rather to satisfy the defendant's liability for a municipal tax debt in respect of the property that had been paid by the vendor, a bank which acquired the property through foreclosure proceedings.  The municipal tax debt arose out of an unfulfilled order that the plaintiff, who was the lessor of the property prior to the foreclosure, remove topsoil from it whcih created a nuisance.  Thus, the defendant argued that the plaintiff's monetary contribution was made for the purpose of satisfying a legal obligation to a third party (the owner of the property prior to the foreclosure), thereby precluding it from giving rise to a claim for unjust enrichment.  The question for the Court is whether the resulting trust still has a role to play in resolving non-domestic disputes that is independent of the doctrine of unjust enrichment, or whether it has been superseded by the latter head of liability.  We discussed the Rascal case in previous post.  The oral arguments before the Court may be viewed here, and the written arguments may be viewed here.

Leave Applications Decided

The Court did not grant leave in any cases this week, but refused leave in several cases of interest, including the following:

1) Fairhurst v. De Beers Canada Inc., 2012 BCCA 257, where the B.C. Court of Appeal, in the context of a putative price-fixing class action against several alleged conspirators resident outside B,C., refused a motion by the defendants to strike the claim brought on the basis that the Court lacked territorial jurisdiction under the B.C. Court Jurisdiction and Proceedings Transfer Act.  The Court held that a "real and substantial connection" between the claim and British Columbia existed under s. 10 of the Act - which presumes such a connection to exist where there is a "tort committed in British Columbia" or "restitutionary obligations that, to a substantial extent, arose in British Columbia" – on the theory that the situs of the tort of conspiracy in the price-fixing context is the place where the economic damage from it is suffered (thus including B.C., where the putative class was alleged to have paid overcharges resulting from the alleged conspiracy).

2) Remington Development Corporation v. Enmax Power Corporation, 2012 ABCA 196, in which the Alberta Court of Appeal held that the benefits of contracts between railroad and power companies, which enabled the power company to operate transmission lines and towers on the railroad company's lands, could be assigned by the railroad company to a non-railroad developer (who moved to terminate the contracts) without the power company's consent   The Court rejected the power company's argument that the contracts were "personal" in nature and hence required its consent before their benefits could be assigned.

3) Ko v. Hillview Homes Ltd., 2012 ABCA 245, where the Alberta Court of Appeal held that a contract by which the defendant home-builder agreed to convey a lot and construct a home for the plaintiff, which was never performed, was void for uncertainty.  The contract stated that the home to be built was the defendant's standard model home, plus an additional 1,666 square feet, but provided no details regarding the nature or location of the additional square footage.

4) Koubi v. Mazda Canada Inc., 2012 BCCA 310, a case we discussed in a previous post, where the B.C. Court of Appeal decertified waiver of tort claims for restitution and disgorgement in a class action, which were based on alleged breaches of the B.C. Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act and Sale of Goods Act.  The Court found that neither statutory breach could found a claim for waiver of tort, since the legislation either served as an exhaustive code for regulating the statutory rights it created, or enacted its own exclusive remedy in respect of those rights.

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