Woolley J

7.5: Application for judgment by way of summary trial

Case Summary

The Plaintiff, ABB Inc. (“ABB”), applied for a Summary Trial in relation to the liability of the Defendants, Pronghorn Controls Ltd. (“Pronghorn”) and Messrs. Thurber, Bredy, Byron, Franklin, Hicks, Gomez and Szondi (collectively, the “Individual Defendants”). The Defendants all agreed that liability could be properly determined through the Rule 7.5 Summary Trial process; however, they requested that, in the event any of the Defendants were found liable to the Plaintiff, damages be determined through the ordinary Trial process.

The events giving rise to this litigation occurred when the Individual Defendants were unhappy with aspects of their employment at ABB. The evidence before the Court was unclear with respect to how much coordination and discussion occurred between the Individual Defendants and their decision to leave ABB. The Individual Defendants had left their employment with ABB, en masse, for employment with Pronghorn. Following the exodus of its employees, ABB was forced to shut down its operations in the region.

Woolley J. noted that the parties had agreed that the question of liability could be properly determined through the Rule 7.5 process and commended them for doing so. Justice Woolley highlighted that Summary Trial is appropriate where factual questions can be properly resolved through the Summary Trial procedure, and where doing so would not be unjust. Woolley J. found that, in this instance, the factual issues raised by the case could be properly resolved by way of Affidavits and the record before the Court.

After reviewing the record before the Court, Woolley J. found that it was Pronghorn who was approached by the Individual Defendants and not the other way around. Her Ladyship noted that there was no evidence to suggest that Pronghorn had offered the Individual Defendants incentive payments or gifts to encourage them to leave their existing employment. Pronghorn only offered the Individual Defendants jobs and the mere act of doing so did not constitute an inducement for another party to breach its contract.

Justice Woolley noted further that the Individual Defendants did not actually have a contract with ABB but were the subject of a collective agreement. Even so, Her Ladyship found that, if the Individual Defendants did have contractual obligations with ABB, the breach of those obligations would have been limited to the Individual Defendants’ failure to give reasonable notice.  

Accordingly, Justice Woolley dismissed ABB’s Statement of Claim in its entirety.

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