SAMSON CREE NATION v O’REILLY & ASSOCIÉS, 2014 ABCA 280

MARTIN, WAKELING JJA and NATION J (ad hoc)

10.1: Definitions
10.4: Charging order for payment of lawyer’s charges

Case Summary

The Appellant sought to litigate approximately 20 years of paid legal bills. At the relevant time, the old Rules were in force; however, the Court referenced the equivalent new Rules in the Decision. The Appellant argued, amongst other things, that lawyers’ accounts are not a simple matter of contract, and a Court could assess the reasonableness of fees on a quantum meruit basis. The Court rejected this argument and, after noting the newer provisions in Rules 10.2 and 10.5, held that a retainer contract is binding, and that the new Rules specifically outline that a lawyer may charge on an hourly basis.

Former Rule 647 expressly allowed the Court to extend the six-month time limit for the taxing of legal accounts, and the Court held that new Rule 10.10 implicitly does so as well, as it does not exclude the general time extension Rule in the Rules of Court. However, the Court held that the Limitations Act, RSA 2000, c L-12 was applicable to all accounts over two years old. The Court noted that the Queen’s Bench Justice reviewed the case law for relevant criteria related to extending Rule 647’s deadline, and found that almost every one of the facts favoured the Respondent’s position that the time limit should not be extended. The Court observed that, with some minor exceptions, neither party contended that the list of criteria or approach taken was incorrect. The six-month deadline was not extended by the Court, and the Appeal was dismissed.

The Gift Lake Métis Settlement (“Gift Lake”) applied for Intervener status in an Appeal which touched on the interpretation of the role of the Registrar and Settlement Councils in terminating memberships of Metis settlement members. The Application was not opposed, but the Respondents requested that limits be placed on the nature and scope of the intervention. Veldhuis J.A. considered Rule 2.10 and noted that the granting of intervener status is discretionary and should be exercised sparingly. Her Ladyship cautioned that interveners should not be allowed to expand the lawsuit, delay proceedings or prejudice a party. Further, in an Appeal, interveners are not usually permitted to adduce additional evidence or raise fresh issues that are not supported by the record below. Veldhuis J.A., citing prior authority, stated that, in an Appeal, it is not suitable for an intervener to extend the argument from the Court below or the argument advanced in the Appeal. However, “an intervener may be permitted to argue a new point that is inextricably linked to an issue raised by the parties...”.

Veldhuis J.A. emphasized that Gift Lake would be specially affected by the issue in the Appeal and granted Intervener status subject to conditions restricting the scope of argument and the time allotted for oral submissions.

The Defendant Appellant appealed a Summary Judgment Order and an Order granting leave to file a Writ of Enforcement in a debt Action. The motions Judge granted Summary Judgment on the basis that, on the evidence presented, the Plaintiff Respondent did not forgive the Defendant Appellant’s debt. The Court of Appeal considered Rule 7.3 and stated that a court may grant Summary Judgment if there is no defence to a claim or part of it. The Court noted the change in the language of the current Rule 7.3 as compared to prior Rule 159. The Court also observed that Summary Judgment is a “valuable option in the dispute resolution process”. The Court concluded that the Defendant Decision granting Summary Judgment for the amount of the unpaid debt was appropriate.

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