Archive for the ‘judgments’ Category

A Judicial Do-Over

January 2, 2014

I have long thought that an appeal court is more than merely a forum of last resort , a venue for judicial review, or a chamber of sober second thought.

The intrinsic value of appellate review lies within an appellate court’s power to correct errors of law: lower courts are best suited to be triers of fact. Let the evidentiary chips fall onto the table of justice, where they may.

Many trial lawyers appreciate the difference between the conduct of a trial and that of an appeal. Preserving the record on appeal is vitally important: objections must be stated clearly and unequivocally, but ultimately silence is an admission when it comes to raising grounds for appeal. Equally important is the fact that all cases are framed by the pleadings. If a trier of fact decides a case outside the bounds of the causes of action and defences pleaded, this constitutes a denial of natural justice and procedural fairness and strikes at the very root of the adversarial system: both the plaintiff and the defendants are entitled to know what the dispute is about and raise all arguments and adduce any evidence in support of their respective legal positions.

However, no one likes legal “technicalities”, not even lawyers. Depending on your views of the judicial decision-making process as deductive, inductive or reductive; a court must fairly, impartially and rationally use the process of judicial reasoning to resolve a dispute on its merits.

There is an “escape clause” built into the civil justice system: the fusion of law and equity that reflects the historical compromise of the exercise of judicial power over individuals (jurisdiction in the traditional sense of “juris” (the law”) and diction (“speaks) and that justice not only be done, but also be seen to be done. Consider section 96 of the Courts of Justice Act R.S.O. 1990, c. C.43 (as am) which reads:

Common Law and Equity

Rules of law and equity

96.(1)Courts shall administer concurrently all rules of equity and the common law. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.43, s. 96 (1); 1993, c. 27, Sched.

Rules of equity to prevail

(2)Where a rule of equity conflicts with a rule of the common law, the rule of equity prevails. R.S.O. 1990, c. C.43, s. 96 (2); 1993, c. 27, Sched.

Jurisdiction for equitable relief

(3)Only the Court of Appeal and the Superior Court of Justice, exclusive of the Small Claims Court, may grant equitable relief, unless otherwise provided. 1994, c. 12, s. 38; 1996, c. 25, s. 9 (17).

 Section 96 of the CJA is what I like to call the “judicial do-over”.

Let’s say you’re plaintiff’s counsel and you’ve persuaded the trial judge of the defendant’s liability, but proving the plaintiff’s damages poses to be a problem. Do you take your chances and hope the trial judge will award the plaintiff damages based upon a theory without expert evidence, or much evidence, for that matter? What do you do? Do you take your chances and hope the Court of Appeal will uphold the the trial judge’s assessment of damages, or will only nominal damages be awarded?  Is the fair and just result to order a new trial on the assessment of damages?

Read today’s decision of the Court of Appeal for Ontario in TMS Lighting Ltd. v. KJS Transport Inc., 2014 ONCA 1, per Cronk J.A. (Blair and Strathy JJ.A. concurring).and you be the judge:

(f) The question of remedy

[81] The appellants argue that any award of damages for TMS’s lost productivity should be nominal, at best. They submit that because the respondents’ nuisance-based damages theory was justifiably rejected at trial, and the trial judge’s substituted approach for the quantification of lost productivity damages is fatally flawed, the respondents must bear the consequences for their failure to lead the necessary evidence to establish the quantum of their damages. They rely, in this regard, on the trial judge’s findings that the respondents failed to adduce available evidence at trial that bore on their theory of lost productivity damages and that, as a result, an adverse inference should be drawn against the respondents regarding the utility of any such evidence. As a result of these factors, the appellants say, an award of only nominal damages is mandated.

[82] In the particular circumstances of this case, I would not accede to this argument.

[83] It is well-established that where the absence of evidence renders it impossible to assess damages, a plaintiff may be entitled to only nominal damages. Goldfarb, for example, says so. But this is not invariably the case. Where a plaintiff proves a substantial loss and the trial judge errs in the assessment of damages arising from that loss, the interests of justice may necessitate a new trial on damages. Although the quantification of damages flowing from the established loss may prove difficult, nonetheless the injured plaintiff is entitled to compensation.

[84] Goldfarb itself is a case in point. Goldfarb involved a claim for damages for breach of fiduciary duty advanced by the client of a law firm against the firm and the involved firm lawyer. This court held that there was inadequate cogent evidence to support the substantial award of damages made by the trial judge. Justice Finlayson explained, at para. 67:

[The plaintiff/client] failed to prove the losses through appropriate evidence. The trial judge’s award of damage is speculative at best, and does not reflect with much precision real losses flowing from the breach, notwithstanding that the plaintiff bore the burden of proving the losses in the normal course.

[85] Notwithstanding that the proffer of relevant evidence was “fully within the control of [the plaintiff]”, the Goldfarb court rejected the remedy of nominal damages and concluded that a new assessment of damages was necessary because the plaintiff had demonstrated a substantial personal loss although evidence proving the quantum of that loss was lacking: Goldfarb at paras. 80, 83 and 84. See also Rosenhek v. Windsor Regional Hospital, 2010 ONCA 13, 257 O.A.C. 283, at paras. 37-38, leave to appeal to S.C.C. refused, [2010] S.C.C.A. No. 89.

[86] This reasoning is apposite here. On the trial judge’s findings, the respondents suffered a substantial and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of their lands, as well as trespass to those lands. The appellants’ nuisance and trespass were neither trivial nor transitory. To the contrary, they occurred over a sustained period and interfered, to a significant extent, with the respondents’ use and enjoyment of their lands for the purpose of TMS’s manufacturing operations. For approximately five years, disruption of TMS’s manufacturing operations led to reduced business productivity. This is a real wrong, which caused real loss.

[87] Damages, including damages for loss of revenues or profits, may be measured in various ways including, where appropriate, based on expert opinion evidence. That the manner of proof of lost productivity damages posited by the respondents at trial failed, does not mean that no proof is available. In all the circumstances, in my view, a new assessment of TMS’s lost productivity damages arising from the appellants’ proven nuisance and trespass is required in the interests of justice.

Trying to fake a judgment? What were the plaintiffs thinking?

February 1, 2013


[38] I have no hesitation in concluding that an award of full indemnity costs is required in the circumstances of this case. I find that the plaintiffs’ conduct, in faking a judgment of this court, constitutes a scurrilous and fraudulent attack on the administration of justice. The plaintiffs’ actions amount to a contemptuous and reckless disregard for the judicial process and were calculated to obstruct or interfere with the due course of justice in these proceedings. The plaintiffs’ behaviour was “reprehensible, scandalous and outrageous.” Such reckless attacks on the administration of justice clearly constitute conduct requiring chastisement and deterrence.

[39] I find that the defendants are entitled to full indemnity costs, payable by the plaintiffs D’Souza and D’Gama forthwith. Costs are awarded as follows:

Woldanskas $14,974.60

Linton/Jagielski $10,659.35

Gills $14, 617.97

inclusive of disbursements and HST.

[40] The plaintiffs are prohibited from taking any fresh step in these proceedings until these costs have been paid in full.

Master Dash Order

[41] There is a subsidiary issue involving an order of Master Dash on April 26, 2011, obtained without notice, granting leave to the plaintiffs to register a certificate of pending litigation against the Property (the CPL order). No CPL has been registered as yet.

[42] The plaintiffs have refused or been unable to produce the original of Master Dash’s order. The court record apparently contains no original order or endorsed motion record.

[43] It appears that the CPL order of Master Dash may also be a fake.

[44] In any event, it was obtained without notice. The noting in default of the Gills was improper and constituted sharp practice.

[45] In the circumstances, my order shall issue setting aside the CPL order of Master Dash dated April 26, 2011.

Read the decision of Penny J. in John Joseph AKA John D’Souza and Peter D’Gama v. Ritchie James Linton, et al. 2013 ONSC 70  here.

Baumgartner on “Understanding the Obstacles to the Recognition and Enforcement of U.S. Judgments Abroad”

January 23, 2013

Samuel P. Baumgartner (University of Akron – School of Law) has posted “Understanding the Obstacles to the Recognition and Enforcement of U.S. Judgments Abroad”, New York University Journal of International Law and Politics (JILP), Vol. 44, 2013/U of Akron Legal Studies Research Paper No. 13-01. Here’s the abstract:

Questions of recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments have entered center stage. Recent empirical work suggests that there has been a marked increase in the frequency with which U.S. courts are asked to recognize and enforce foreign judgments. The U.S. litigation surrounding a multibillion-dollar Ecuadoran judgment against Chevron indicates that the stakes in some of these cases can be high indeed. This rising importance of questions of judgments recognition has not been lost on lawmakers. In November of 2011, the Subcommittee on Courts, Commercial and Administrative Law of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee held hearings on whether to adopt federal legislation on the question of recognizing and enforcing foreign judgments in the United States. And at the Hague Conference of Private International Law, the project – begun in the 1990s and later shelved – to enter into a world-wide convention on the recognition of foreign judgments, has just been put on the agenda for further study.

In this Article, I focus on the major obstacles U.S. judgment holders have encountered abroad as a matter of foreign recognition doctrine and to analyze the reasons underlying those obstacles. This should help lawmakers and treaty negotiators better understand what sorts of problems U.S. judgments holders are likely to encounter and why. I propose that we distinguish those obstacles on the basis both of the purpose they are meant to serve and of the way in which they have developed. Thus, I submit that the doctrinal obstacles identified pursue three distinct purposes: the protection of the sovereignty of the recognition state; the protection of other public interests of the recognition state; and the protection of the party against whom the U.S. judgment is to be used from what the recognition state views as substandard legal norms or procedural treatment. I further suggest that we separate the doctrinal obstacles encountered by U.S. judgments holders abroad into two categories on the basis of how they have developed. The first category consists of doctrines that were set in place some time ago and that apply to all judgments from jurisdictions with which the relevant country does not have a recognition treaty, including the United States. The second category consists of slight changes to existing recognition doctrine that some foreign jurisdictions have adopted specifically in reaction to litigation in the United States. This second category has come about, I argue, through the operation of four factors: power politics, domestic legal and procedural culture, the preferences of groups and individuals inside and outside the state apparatus, and relevant information asymmetries.

A copy of the paper is available for download at SSRN here.

Elizabeth F. Judge, “Curious Judge: Judicial Notice of Facts, Independent Judicial Research, and the Impact of the Internet”

January 10, 2013

Elizabeth F. Judge (University of Ottawa – Faculty of Law (Common Law)) has posted “Curious Judge: Judicial Notice of Facts, Independent Judicial Research, and the Impact of the Internet”, Annual Review of Civil Litigation, pp. 325-350, Honourable Mr. Justice Todd L. Archibald Superior Court of Justice (Ontario) and the Late Honourable Mr. Justice Randall Scott Echlin, eds., 2012. The abstract reads:

Judicial notice allows uncontroversial facts to be established without evidentiary proof. The facts must either themselves be beyond dispute because they are “notorious” (that is, generally known within the community) or they must be able to be referenced in easily accessed sources whose accuracy is beyond dispute. Judicial notice is an especially vexing topic because it goes to the heart of the epistemological inquiry of the adversarial process and the nature of the judicial function. Judicial notice implicates the allocation of responsibilities for fact finding between the parties and the court, between the judge and the jury, between the court of first instance and the appellate bodies, and between the courts and the legislature; how fact finders engage in ordinary reasoning processes to decide what a fact is; the distinction between adjudicative and legislative facts and their respective roles; and due process concerns for one or both parties. The rules governing judicially noticed facts are especially sensitive because whenever a fact is judicially noticed it is not subject to the ordinary processes for testing evidence, such as oaths and cross examination, and thus the rules implicate concerns about fairness to the parties and accuracy. For a common law precedential system, these concerns are particularly acute.

Drawing on American and Commonwealth commentators, this article provides a detailed analysis of the general theory and policy of judicial notice and the role of judicial notice in the adversarial system. The article then turns to a discussion of the practice of independent judicial research and an examination of the impact of the internet on judicial notice. The article analyses the laws and policies governing judicial notice of facts and independent judicial research in Canada and the Supreme Court of Canada’s legal framework. It examines independent judicial research and, most pertinently for modern practices of judicial notice, appropriate uses of internet search tools and online sources in the context of judicial notice. It considers how the internet is affecting key aspects pertaining to the judicial notice of facts: first, what “notoriety” and “community” mean; and second, what counts as an authoritative reference. The paper concludes by addressing how the internet, including search engines and online content, may affect the traditional framework for judicial notice of facts.

A copy of the paper is available for download via SSRN here.

Matthew J. Wilson, “Improving the Process: Transnational Litigation and the Application of Private Foreign Law in U.S. Courts”

January 8, 2013

Matthew J. Wilson (University of Wyoming – College of Law) has posted “Improving the Process: Transnational Litigation and the Application of Private Foreign Law in U.S. Courts”, New York University Journal of International Law and Politics (JILP), Vol. 45, 2013, forthcoming. The abstract reads:

Due to the current and anticipated stream of foreign law issues in U.S. courts and arbitration proceedings, it is necessary to explore additional ways to ensure accuracy and improve current procedures in applying foreign law. At the same time, it is also important to understand the issues and concerns underlying the application of foreign law in U.S. courts. In recent years, foreign law has increasingly gained greater public attention and political discourse has progressively focused on the use of foreign law by U.S. courts. Some of this attention has been politically charged and quite unfavorable. In fact, policymakers across the U.S. have advocated measures that would prohibit courts from using or relying on foreign law in certain instances. In many respects, much of the negative sentiment towards foreign law has been misdirected resulting in public confusion. Accordingly, an examination of the boundaries of the ongoing debate is necessary to clarify those areas in which foreign law can and should be applied without issue. To accomplish the above objectives, this article focuses on the legal requirements, practical aspects, and possible improvements of proving the law of a foreign country in U.S. courts. Before delving into these areas though, it is worthwhile to breakdown the opposition to the use and application of foreign law in U.S. courts to gain a better understanding of the attendant issues.

 A pdf copy of the paper is available for download on SSRN here.


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