HANNAM v MEDICINE HAT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO 76, 2020 ABCA 343
O’ FERRALL, WAKELING AND FEEHAN JJA
7.1: Application to resolve particular questions or issues
7.3: Summary Judgment (Application and decision)
The Defendants appealed the Chambers Judge’s dismissal of their Application for Summary Dismissal. The Court of Appeal took the opportunity to discuss the historical development of Summary Judgment law in Canada and other common law jurisdictions before allowing the Appeal and summarily dismissing the Plaintiff’s personal injury claim.
The Court of Appeal noted that the Chambers Judge did not have the benefit of Alberta’s current Summary Judgment authority: Weir-Jones Technical Services Inc. v Purolator Courier Ltd., 2019 ABCA 49 (“Weir-Jones”) at the time of the Decision. As a result, the Chambers Judge erred in considering whether it was obvious that there was an issue requiring Trial.
In response, the Court of Appeal clarified the Rule 7.3 test for Summary Judgment as set out in Weir-Jones. This test for Summary Judgment asks whether the moving party has established the facts in issue on a balance of probabilities, and thus there is no genuine issue requiring a Trial. Significantly, this conclusion need not be obvious. The Court may make contested findings on material facts in an Application for Summary Judgment despite the judiciary’s historical hesitance to do so. Similarly, the Court of Appeal stressed Justice Slatter’s comment in Weir-Jones that adjudicators can even hear oral testimony during an Application for Summary Judgment.
Moreover, the Court of Appeal explained that while the text of Rule 7.3 does not ask whether there is a genuine issue requiring a Trial, the natural conclusion if there is no defence or merit to a claim is that there is no genuine issue requiring a Trial. As such, the “genuine issue” inquiry leads to the same conclusion as asking whether a claim has merit, or a valid defence.
Finally, while discussing alternatives to a Trial, the Court of Appeal noted Rule 7.1, which allows one specific issue or question in a dispute to be heard independently from the larger claim in order to streamline the broader litigation. The Court of Appeal emphasized that this function is used less frequently than it should be when considering the current movement towards resolving litigation through less cumbersome and costly processes than the traditional Trial.View CanLII Details