Canada: L'abus de procédure : L'importance d'adopter une conduite raisonnable devant les tribunaux

Tout récemment, la Cour supérieure du Québec a souligné l'importance pour les corps publics, en raison de leurs statuts et de leurs missions, de respecter les exigences en matière de transparence et de rigueur dans leur gestion. Pour un organisme public, cette obligation implique le maintien de relations « franches et objectives avec son personnel, ses partenaires et les contribuables en général »1.

Dans l'affaire Équipements JVC inc. c. Commission scolaire Central Québec2, la demanderesse, Équipements JVC inc. (« JVC »), réclamait une somme de 283 538,53 $ de la défenderesse, la Commission scolaire Central Québec (« Commission scolaire ») représentant le solde du prix de travaux de réhabilitation de sols contaminés réalisés à l'automne 2012. La Commission scolaire, quant à elle, soutenait qu'elle ne devait rien à JVC et lui réclamait la somme de 277 283,70 $ pour les honoraires engagés à la suite de l'exécution prétendument fautive des travaux par JVC.

Les faits

Le 16 août 2011, à la suite d'un appel d'offres, la Commission scolaire octroie à JVC un contrat pour la réalisation de travaux de réhabilitation des sols contaminés se trouvant sur le site de l'École MacLean Memorial à Chibougamau (« École »), en vue de travaux d'agrandissement.

En octobre 2011, une fois les travaux complétés, des analyses réalisées par les consultants mandatés par la Commission scolaire révèlent certaines carences dans les travaux réalisés par JVC.

Un différend naît alors entre les parties quant à la responsabilité incombant à chacune d'entre elles devant cette situation. Afin de mettre un terme à ce différend, les parties signent, le 18 juillet 2012, un document intitulé « Transaction et quittance » (« Transaction ») qui vise à établir les paramètres à l'intérieur desquels les travaux de reprise devront être réalisés par JVC et les sommes qui lui seront versées par la Commission scolaire pour ces travaux.

La Transaction prévoit entre autres que, conditionnellement à l'exécution complète et conforme par les parties de leurs obligations respectives, celles-ci se donneront quittance complète, totale et finale de tous recours qu'elles auraient l'une envers l'autre découlant des travaux initiaux ou des travaux repris.

Avant le début des travaux, JVC présente sa méthode de travail relativement à la construction et à la localisation d'un mur de soutènement pour permettre une compaction adéquate des sols et elle commence ses travaux.

Les travaux de reprise, qui donnent les résultats escomptés, ont lieu durant les mois de septembre et octobre 2012. La Commission scolaire paye un montant de 131 934,27 $ à JVC, mais un solde de 283 538,53 $ du montant convenu dans la Transaction demeure impayé. JVC poursuit donc la Commission scolaire pour obtenir ce solde.

La Commission scolaire nie devoir ces sommes à JVC et lui réclame au surplus, au moyen d'une demande reconventionnelle, des dommages de 277 283,70$ représentant les frais additionnels payés aux professionnels et à l'entrepreneur général mandatés dans le cadre des travaux d'agrandissement de l'École pour la conception modifiée de la fondation, requise par les méthodes employées par JVC.

La décision

Après une analyse détaillée, le Tribunal conclut d'abord que JVC est en droit d'obtenir le paiement de 116 773 $ sur les 283 538,53 $ qu'elle réclame pour les travaux réalisés.

Quant à la demande reconventionnelle de la Commission scolaire, la Cour conclut, après avoir écarté un argument de prescription du recours soulevé par JVC, que celle-ci est abusive puisque manifestement mal fondée et qu'elle constitue une utilisation excessive et déraisonnable de la procédure. Il était clair que cette demande était sans fondement et vouée à l'échec dès le départ. Ce faisant, Commission scolaire aurait dû s'en tenir à une simple défense et reconnaître devoir les sommes qu'elle avait déjà admises.

En effet, la Cour retient, à la lumière de la preuve, que la Commission scolaire a accepté la méthode de travail employée par JVC. Le contenu de la Transaction et des comptes rendus de réunions font foi de cette acceptation et rien dans le devis ou dans la Transaction ne permet de soutenir que le mur n'était pas conforme au devis ou que les frais supplémentaires engagés par la Commission scolaire lors des travaux d'agrandissement de l'École pouvaient être imputables à JVC.

La Commission scolaire n'a jamais avisé JVC que la méthode employée était non conforme au devis ni qu'elle la tiendrait responsable des coûts additionnels engendrés par celle-ci, et elle a accepté sans réserve les travaux de reprise de JVC dont l'objectif de décontamination des sols a été atteint.

La Cour rejette donc la demande reconventionnelle de la Commission scolaire et condamne cette dernière à payer à JVC la somme de 7 500 $ à titre de dommages et intérêts résultant de cette procédure abusive.

Conclusion

L'abus de procédure peut prendre plusieurs formes : il peut s'agir d'un recours inutile, de procédures judiciaires excessives ou de la multiplication de procédures dilatoires ou futiles, une requête manifestement mal fondée ou la défense d'un droit inexistant. Cette décision rappelle le principe fondamental en vertu duquel la bonne foi doit gouverner la conduite des parties et l'importance de n'avoir recours aux tribunaux que pour les fins auxquelles ceux-ci sont destinés à savoir « faire triompher le droit et la vérité »3.

Footnote

1 Équipements JVC inc. c. Commission scolaire Central Québec, 2018 QCCS 4946, para 210.

2 Id.

3 Royal Lepage commercial inc. c. 109650 Canada Ltd., 2007 QCCA 915, para 39.

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