Canada: Contrat De Vente Ou D’entreprise? L’impact De La Qualification De La Nature D’un Contrat Sur Le Transfert De Propriété D’un Bien Visé Par La Saisine Du Syndic

Les Habitations Techniques ltée (« Habitations Techniques ») est une entreprise spécialisée dans la fabrication et la vente de maisons usinées. Pour sa part, Drummond Mobile Québec inc. (« Drummond Mobile ») Suvre dans le commerce de détail de maisons mobiles.

En vertu de deux contrats distincts conclus respectivement en novembre 2010 et en janvier 2011, Drummond Mobile commande d'Habitations Techniques deux maisons mobiles devant être conçues selon des critères bien précis. Dans les deux cas, le prix d'achat des maisons est acquitté d'avance par Drummond Mobile. Toutefois, lors de la commande de la deuxième maison mobile, Habitations Techniques, alors en difficultés financières, accorde à Drummond Mobile une garantie sur un de ses condos modèles afin de garantir la livraison de la deuxième maison mobile.

Les deux maisons mobiles commandées ne seront finalement jamais livrées et, le 25 mars 2011, Habitations Techniques fait cession de ses biens.

Le 7 avril 2011, Drummond Mobile dépose auprès du syndic d'Habitations Techniques deux preuves de réclamation concernant des biens en possession d'un failli aux termes de l'article 81 de la Loi sur la faillite et l'insolvabilité (« LFI »). Selon cette procédure, les biens qui sont en possession d'un failli, mais qui ne lui appartiennent pas, pourront être remis à leur véritable propriétaire.

Dans sa preuve de réclamation, Drummond Mobile prétend qu'elle est en droit de récupérer la première maison mobile, puisque le contrat stipulait qu'elle en deviendrait propriétaire dès son parfait paiement. Drummond Mobile prétend également que, comme la deuxième maison mobile ne lui a jamais été livrée, elle est en droit de revendiquer le condo modèle conformément à sa garantie.

Le syndic contestera les deux réclamations de Drummond Mobile qui en appellera ensuite de la décision du syndic devant la Cour supérieure. Dans un jugement rendu le 1er mars 2012, la juge de première instance conclut que les contrats intervenus entre Habitations Techniques et Drummond Mobile sont des contrats de vente et donc que Drummond Mobile est devenue propriétaire des deux maisons mobiles lorsqu'elle en a acquitté la totalité du prix de vente. Elle conclut également que l'hypothèque du créancier hypothécaire d'Habitations Techniques n'est pas opposable à Drummond Mobile et ordonne au créancier hypothécaire de lui remettre les deux maisons mobiles. Le créancier hypothécaire se pourvoit.

Dans une décision rendue à deux contre un, la majorité de la Cour d'appel est d'avis que la juge de première instance a commis une erreur en qualifiant les contrats relatifs à la conception des maisons mobiles de contrats de vente, plutôt que de contrats d'entreprises.

Citant les auteurs Jobin et Cumyn, la Cour d'appel rappelle que l'article 2103 al. 3 du Code civil du Québec (« C.c.Q. ») a mis fin au débat jurisprudentiel et doctrinal sur la distinction entre les contrats de vente et d'entreprise :

« 4- Distinction avec le contrat d'entreprise – [...] Une nouvelle disposition, reprenant l'opinion d'un juge dans un ancien arrêt et la solution de la Convention de Vienne (article 3), pose comme critère de distinction la valeur relative du travail et des matériaux : désormais, de tels contrats sont a priori considérés comme des contrats d'entreprise ; ils sont des ventes quand le travail n'est « qu'un accessoire » par rapport à la valeur des matériaux. Pour que ce soit une vente, il faut donc démontrer que l'écart entre la valeur respective du travail et des matériaux est si considérable que le travail n'apparaisse que comme un accessoire. [...] »1

En vertu de l'article 81(3) LFI, il revenait à Drummond Mobile de démontrer qu'elle était la propriétaire des maisons mobiles qu'elle revendique. Pour ce faire, Drummond Mobile devait, aux termes de l'article 2103 C.c.Q., démontrer par prépondérance de preuve que la valeur des biens revendiqués était supérieure au travail nécessaire pour leur fabrication.2

Or, la Cour d'appel note que le dossier d'appel contient peu d'informations permettant de tirer de façon précise une conclusion sur l'importance de la prestation de travail en rapport avec la valeur du bien. Devant cette absence de preuve, la Cour d'appel souligne que le créancier de l'obligation ne bénéficie pas d'une présomption selon laquelle, en l'absence d'une preuve contraire, le contrat intervenu entre lui et son cocontractant est un contrat de vente. La Cour d'appel est aussi d'avis que le fait pour Drummond Mobile d'avoir payé à l'avance ne peut être déterminant en l'espèce comme élément de qualification de la nature du contrat.

La Cour d'appel décide donc que les contrats intervenus sont des contrats d'entreprises visant la fabrication ou la construction de maisons mobiles et, en conséquence, que le transfert de propriété ne pouvait avoir eu lieu en faveur Drummond Mobile tant que le contrat d'entreprise n'était pas terminé, c'est-à-dire tant que les maisons mobiles n'étaient pas livrées.

Quant au condo modèle donné en garanti, les juges sont unanimement d'accord pour conclure qu'ils ne peuvent en déclarer Habitations Drummond propriétaire, puisque le condo n'est plus en possession des parties et qu'il est désormais incorporé à une autre immeuble propriété d'un tiers qui n'est pas partie aux procédures dont ils sont saisis.

Gestion J.P. Brousseau Inc. c. Drummond Mobile Québec Inc., C.A. 200-09-007681-122, jugement du 30 janvier 2014, Juges Jacques Chamberland, Lorne Giroux, Guy Gagnon.

Footnotes

1 - P.-G. Jobin et M. Cumyn, La vente, 3e éd. Cowansville, Éditions Yvon Blais, 2007, no 4, aux p. 6-7.

2 - Silo supérieur (1993) inc. c. Ferme Kaech & Fils inc., J.-E. 2004-1358 (C.A.), par. 25 (j. Dussault).

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