3.65: Permission of Court to amendment before or after close of pleadings
3.68: Court options to deal with significant deficiencies

Case Summary

The case involved a defamation action for release of a document (the “Quality Alert”) by the Defendant, CNRL, which stated that piping defects had been discovered in the pipes manufactured by the Plaintiff, Mittal, and that those materials should be quarantined until an investigation of the cause was complete. Mittal sought to substantially amend its Statement of Claim, from 26 paragraphs to 111 paragraphs. The Defendant submitted that Mittal had not met the test under Rule 3.65 for many of the proposed amendments because there was no evidence to support the amendments and/or some of the amendments raised new claims which were past the limitation date. Pursuant to Rule 3.68(2)(b), the Defendant applied to strike the pleadings related to the allegation that the Quality Alert was defamatory and/or an injurious falsehood.

With regard to the Application to amend the pleadings, the Court addressed each of the proposed additional paragraphs. The proposed amendments that CNRL did not oppose were allowed. Some amendments identified the names of the recipients of the Quality Alert who were described more generally in the original pleadings. Therefore, those amendments particularized the original pleadings and were allowed. Paragraphs which identified the projects and customers who allegedly avoided the pipes as a result of CNRL’s Quality Alert were supported by Affidavit evidence and allowed. However, the majority of the proposed amendments were not allowed. In a prior application – Canadian Natural Resources Limited v Arcelormittal Tubular Products Roman S.A. (Mittal Steel Roman S.A.), 2012 ABQB 679, aff’d 2013 ABCA 87 – CNRL was denied amendments to its Statement of Defence. Some of the paragraphs that the Plaintiff now proposed were essentially identical to those sought by CNRL in its proposed Amended Statement of Defence. Therefore, Hughes J. denied those amendments. Other proposed paragraphs were denied for the following reasons:

(a)    The amendments pleaded no material or relevant facts with respect to the elements of defamation or injurious falsehood;

(b)   The amendments were wholly argument and therefore improper pleadings;

(c)    The amendments were not supported by the evidence;

(d)   The original pleadings did not provide sufficient detail of the specific claims. Therefore, the amendments did not further particularize the original pleadings, but brought new claims which were out of time; and

(e)   Those claims out of time could not be saved because they did not relate to the conduct, transaction or events described in the original pleading. The original Statement of Claim simply made general allegations and did not adequately plead republication or the harm arising therefrom.

With respect to CNRL’s application to strike out pleadings pursuant to Rule 3.68(2)(b), the test was whether it was “plain and obvious” that the Plaintiff’s claim must fail. The ultimate issue came down to whether the words that Mittal complained of were in fact defamatory. The ordinary meaning of the language and the evidence presented by the attached photographs were considered.Hughes J.found that a reasonable, thoughtful and informed person of average intelligence, with a degree of common sense, would not find the words in the Quality Alert to be defamatory, and that it was plain and obvious the Plaintiff’s claim in injurious falsehood was bound to fail.The Application to strike the pleadings related to the Quality Alert was granted.

View CanLII Details