7.3: Summary Judgment (Application and decision)

Case Summary

This was an Appeal from a Decision of an Applications Judge granting partial Summary Judgment pursuant to Rule 7.3 to two Plaintiffs in their Actions for constructive dismissal. The Applications Judge found that both Plaintiffs had been constructively dismissed. The employer, who was the Applicant, appealed the Applications Judge’s Decision.

The Court emphasized the general approach to Summary Judgment as set out in Hryniak v Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7 (“Hyrniak) and Weir-Jones Technical Services Inc. v Purolator Courier Ltd., 2019 ABCA 49 (“Weir Jones). The Court noted that in Hryniak, the Supreme Court of Canada held that there would be no genuine issue requiring a Trial where the Judge could reach “a fair and just determination on the merits on a motion for summary judgment”.

The Court cited the seminal employment law decision of Potter v New Brunswick Legal Aid Services Commission, 2015 SCC 10, stating that an employee claiming constructive dismissal must demonstrate that the employer’s conduct evinces an intention no longer to be bound by the employment contract.

In assessing the appropriateness of Summary Judgment, the Court acknowledged that the primary concern in this case revolved around the partial nature of the Application. The Applicant solely sought Summary Judgment in relation to the claim of constructive dismissal, deferring the determination of any remedy to a later stage. The Respondent contended that addressing constructive dismissal without considering damages would not significantly expedite or streamline the Trial process, as the issues were interconnected. Furthermore, the Respondent argued that granting partial Summary Judgment should only be employed in situations where issues can be easily separated. Conversely, the Applicant asserted that granting partial Summary Judgment in these circumstances would resolve a distinct issue of liability that applies to both Plaintiffs, and is separate from the individualized assessment of damages.

The Court referenced various authorities in its consideration of partial Summary Judgment and emphasized that the application and its implications must be evaluated within the broader context of the litigation. After weighing the relevant factors, the Court determined that granting Summary Judgment would not be proportionate, expedient, or cost-effective in this particular case. The Court expressed two primary concerns with its Decision. Firstly, the parties had spent nearly three years pursuing Summary Judgment Applications without making any progress, which contravened both the Rules and the principles established in Hyrniak and Weir Jones. Secondly, the Court was apprehensive that the Respondent might misconstrue the Decision as an endorsement of its position on the merits of the constructive dismissal case, which would be erroneous. Consequently, the Court extended an invitation to the parties to engage in a Judicial Dispute Resolution process to facilitate the advancement of the Action.

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