JACKSON v CANADIAN NATIONAL RAILWAY, 2013 ABCA 440
O'BRIEN, MARTIN and O'FERRALL, JJA
7.3: Summary Judgment (Application and decision)
The Appellant Plaintiff was a grain farmer who sued the Respondent Railways for restitution in respect of what he alleged to be excessive freight rates. He claimed that the weight the Respondents charged to move grain included costs for hopper car maintenance which was not actually incurred. The Appellant also sought to certify the Action as a Class Action in respect of other grain farmers in the same position. The Respondents’ Application for Summary Judgment was granted by the Case Management Judge, who held that there were no material facts in dispute that required a Trial. The Case Management Judge held that the legal issue raised by the Claim involved the interpretation of the legislative scheme and, as such, no additional evidence was needed to evaluate the merits of the Claim. The Case Management Judge held that the complex legislative scheme at issue would be rendered meaningless if the interpretation put forward by the Appellant was adopted. The Case Management Judge granted Summary Judgment on the basis that there was no merit to the claim.
The Court of Appeal held that the test for Summary Judgment is met when an Applicant can demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of material fact that requires a Trial. The Court, citing Canada (Attorney General) v Lameman, 2008 SCC 14, held that the Summary Judgment Rule serves an important purpose in that it prevents Claims with no chance of success from proceeding to Trial. The Appellant argued that there were disputes with respect to the evidence that precluded Summary Dismissal. The Court rejected this argument and held that the central issue related to the interpretation of the legislative scheme. The process of Discovery was of no assistance in determining the meaning and intent of statutory provisions. In this context, the Court held that there were no genuine issues of material fact that required a Trial. The Court held that the question was whether the issue could be fairly decided on the record before the Court. In Summary Judgment Applications in which the facts are clear and undisputed, the ultimate outcome often depends on the interpretation of a statute or document, or on some other issue of law that arises from undisputed facts. In such cases, the test for Summary Judgment is not whether the issue is beyond doubt. Rather, the test is whether the issue of law can be fairly decided on the record before the Court. If the legal issue is unsettled, complex, or intertwined with the facts, a full Trial may be necessary. However, it is often possible to decide the question summarily. The Court held that the legislative scheme at issue could be interpreted on the record before the Court and, as such, Summary Dismissal could be granted if it was determined that the Plaintiff had no chance of success. The Court of Appeal considered the legislative scheme and upheld the Decision of the Case Management Judge.View CanLII Details