A summary judgment is a procedure used during civil litigation
to promptly and expeditiously dispose of a case without a trial or
the pre-trial processes such as examinations for discovery and
production of documents. Essentially, a summary judgment is
appropriate when there is no genuine issue requiring a trial.
Despite changes to summary judgment laws in 2010 meant to
increase their efficiency and frequency, courts have underutilized
the process. This is due in part to a Court of Appeal decision that
applied an overly restrictive test for their use.
However, in an effort to increase their application, the Supreme
Court of Canada in Hryniak v. Mauldin has finally
provided guidance on how courts should interpret and apply the law
with regards to summary judgments.
In its decision, the Supreme Court first sets out why summary
judgments are critical to providing access to justice:
 Ensuring access to justice is the greatest challenge to
the rule of law in Canada today. Trials have become increasingly
expensive and protracted. Most Canadians cannot afford to sue when
they are wronged or defend themselves when they are sued, and
cannot afford to go to trial. Without an effective and accessible
means of enforcing rights, the rule of law is threatened. Without
public adjudication of civil cases, the development of the common
law is stunted.
Next, the Court describes the instances when the summary
judgment route may be exercised:
 There will be no genuine issue requiring a trial when
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.
Finally, the Court sets out a "roadmap," for how
summary judgments should be applied by the courts:
 On a motion for summary judgment under Rule 20.04, the
judge should first determine if there is a genuine issue requiring
trial... There will be no genuine issue requiring a trial if the
summary judgment process provides her with the evidence required to
fairly and justly adjudicate the dispute and is a timely,
affordable and proportionate procedure, under Rule 20.04(2)(a). If
there appears to be a genuine issue requiring a trial, she 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). She may, at her
discretion, use those powers, provided that their use is not
against the interest of justice. Their use will not be against the
interest of justice if they will lead to a fair and just result and
will serve the goals of timeliness, affordability and
proportionality in light of the litigation as a whole.
For employers, the summary judgment procedure has always been
available for the resolution of employment law cases. However, this
Supreme Court decision will likely reinforce the position that the
summary disposition of such cases is the preferred route,
especially for most wrongful dismissal cases.
Moreover, this decision will assist employers who are dragged
into frivolous lawsuits by reducing both the cost and length of
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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Unfortunately, reasonable accommodation for employees in the workplace continues to be the source of significant litigation and even today we continue to see outrageous examples of employers behaving badly.
We are now beginning to see reported cases involving charges and subsequent fines laid against employers for failing to provide information, instruction and supervision to protect a worker from workplace violence.
On October 13, 2016, the Supreme Court of Canada denied leave to appeal an Ontario Court of Appeal decision which ordered an employer to pay a former employee 37 months of salary and benefits following termination.
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