1.2: Purpose and intention of these rules
7.3: Summary Judgment (Application and decision)
13.6: Pleadings: general requirements

Case Summary

The Plaintiffs brought an Action for wrongful dismissal against the Defendant Corporation. The Defendant applied for Summary Judgment, and argued that the Plaintiffs were terminated for cause for converting company funds.

Citing Forwest Development Enterprises Ltd v High River Regional Airport Ltd, 2012 ABQB 785, Master Hanebury held that a Plaintiff responding to a Summary Judgment Application need not prove each element of its cause of action. Rather, a Plaintiff need only raise enough evidence to justify the Action going to Trial. A Respondent may defeat a Summary Judgment Application by demonstrating disputes with respect to questions of fact, or with respect to points of law that are unsettled or cannot be easily resolved in the context of the factual disputes. The existence of a question of law will not, without more, defeat a Summary Judgment Application.

Master Hanebury held that, while it was clear that the Plaintiffs converted company funds, it was not clear that the conversion ended the trust relationship between the Parties in a way that justified the Plaintiffs’ immediate termination. The facts demonstrated that the Plaintiffs were allowed continued access to the Defendant’s offices and e-mail, and continued as signing authorities on the Defendant’s bank accounts. As such, Master Hanebury dismissed the Summary Judgment Application because the Defendant had not demonstrated that there was no genuine issue for Trial.

The Defendant further argued that Summary Judgment should be granted on the basis that the Plaintiffs failed to demonstrate any damages. In a Summary Judgment Application, the Respondent need only demonstrate a genuine issue for Trial, and is not required to prove its damages. Although the Plaintiffs’ provision of an unsubstantiated estimate of damages and a bare assertion that expert evidence would be proffered at Trial was insufficient to defeat a Summary Judgment Application, anomalies in the Defendant’s evidence with respect to damages were an insufficient basis upon which Summary Judgment could be granted.

The Defendant further argued that Summary Judgment should be granted on the basis that releases executed by the Plaintiffs immunized the Defendant from their claims. Rule 13.6(3) requires that a pleading set out any matter on which a Party intends to rely, including payment and release. The purpose of Rule 13.6(3) is that a Plaintiff not be caught by surprise by unanticipated defences. Master Hanebury held that because the requirements of Rule 13.6 were not met with respect to this defence, the Defendant’s argument relating to the release would not be considered. However, the Summary Judgment Application would be renewed on the release issue after the Statement of Defence was amended to include this defence.

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