Archive for the ‘jurisdiction’ Category

Two-Year Limitation Period Applies to Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Ontario

January 19, 2017

The Court of Appeal for Ontario has confirmed that the 2-year limitation period under the Limitations Act, 2002 applies to enforcement of foreign judgments. The limitation period begins to run the earlier of when the time to appeal the foreign judgment has expired or, if an appeal is taken, the date of the appeal decision, rendering the decision as final. The limitation period may be longer if the claim was not “discovered” within the meaning of s. 5 of the Limitations Act, 2002, after the date of the appeal decision: Independence Plaza 1 Associates, L.L.C. v. Figliolini, 2017 ONCA 44 (CanLII), http://canlii.ca/t/gwxmx

I have previously argued that no limitation period should apply where the defendant judgment debtor was not resident in Ontario when the original action was commenced in the foreign jurisdiction, even if moving or returning to Ontario in this paper: Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in Canada (January 15, 2014). Ontario Bar Association Institute 2014, ‘Internationalizing Commercial Contracts’. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2379721

Written Retainer Agreement Ousts Small Claim Court’s Jurisdiction

December 8, 2014

Image via Brainden.com

If you’re an Ontario litigator and thought suing your client for fees in Small Claims Court based upon a written retainer agreement was an option, then take a read of Justice Nordheimer’s decision in Jane Conte Professional Corporation v. Josephine Smith, 2014 ONSC 6009 (CanLII), (Div.Ct.).

The case dealt with an appeal by the defendant client from the decision of Deputy Judge Prattas, dated April 29, 2014, dismissing her motion to dismiss her former counsel’s action for unpaid accounts.  The plaintiff lawyer commenced an action against the client defendant in the Small Claims Court seeking to recover payment of the sum of $26,051.59 pursuant to a contingency fee agreement relating to a personal injury action.  Nordheimer J. allowed the appeal, set aside the order of the Deputy Judge and dismissed the claim for want of jurisdiction and held, in part:

[16]      It will be seen from these sections that the Legislature has established a process by which the validity and enforceability of written fee agreements between lawyers and clients are to be handled.  There is nothing in any of these sections that gives any authority to the Small Claims Court to consider issues arising under a written fee agreement including a contingency fee agreement.  Indeed, as I have already mentioned, the Small Claims Court is expressly excluded from considering such matters.

[20] In my view, once a lawyer chooses to enter into a written agreement with his or her client “respecting the amount and manner of payment for the whole or a part of any past or future services in respect of business done or to be done by the solicitor” then the lawyer is bound by the procedures set out in ss. 20 to 32 of the Solicitors Act. In particular, if the lawyer wishes to enforce the agreement then he or she must, as set out in s. 23, bring an application for that purpose in the court “in which the business or any part of it was done or a judge thereof, or, if the business was not done in any court, by the Superior Court of Justice”. I repeat that s. 23 expressly excludes the Small Claims Court from this authority.

Nordheimer J. expressly rejected the former lawyer’s argument that the contingency fee agreement was a “hybrid” agreement, ousting it from judicial scrutiny under ss.20-32 of the Solicitors Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. S.15, stating:

[23]      Further, even if the respondent is correct that the Agreement in this case was both a contingency fee agreement and a regular fee agreement, depending on how events unfolded, that result would not take the Agreement outside the application of ss. 20 to 32 including the enforcement procedure set out in s. 23 since those provisions apply to all written fee agreements.

[24]      Consequently, I concluded that the Small Claims Court had no jurisdiction to consider a claim made by a lawyer based on a written fee agreement including a contingency fee agreement.  I would note, in passing, that this conclusion appears to be consistent with the general rule that questions involving the nature, validity or effect of a contingency fee agreement should be resolved by judges:  Cookish v. Paul Lee Associates Professional Corp.,[2013] O.J. No. 1947 (C.A.) at para. 39.

This decision may come as a big surprise to most who sue their clients for unpaid legal accounts in Small Claims Court.

It is puzzling that the Small Claims Court retains jurisdiction in actions between a lawyer and client for unpaid accounts where there is no written retainer agreement, but loses jurisdiction where there is a written retainer agreement. Of course, all contingency fee agreements must be in writing pursuant s. 28.1(4) of the Solicitors Act.

Incidentally, the Court of Appeal for Ontario previously held that where a written retainer agreement includes an  arbitration clause for fee disputes, it is enforceable, as long as the arbitrator applies the protections under the Solicitors Act: : see, Jean Estate v. Wires Jolley LLP, 2009 ONCA 339 (CanLII) (Ont. C.A.).

Tanya J. Monestier, “Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Foreign Judgments”

January 16, 2014

Tanya J. Monestier (Roger Williams University School of Law) has published “Jurisdiction and the Enforcement of Foreign Judgments”, The Advocates’ Quarterly, Vol. 42, p. 107, 2013/ Roger Williams Univ. Legal Studies Paper No. 143. Here’s the abstract:

In April 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in what has become the pivotal case on personal jurisdiction in Canada, Van Breda v. Club Resorts Ltd. In Van Breda, the Court laid out a new framework for, and defined more precisely the content of, the “real and substantial connection” test that governs the assertion of jurisdiction over ex juris defendants. Specifically, the Court created four presumptive connecting factors that courts are to use in jurisdictional determinations. The presumptive connecting factors approach to jurisdiction was intended to increase certainty and predictability in jurisdictional determinations.

One issue that was alluded to, but ultimately left unanswered, by the Supreme Court in Van Breda was what effect the new presumptive factors framework for the real and substantial connection test had on the enforcement of judgments. Since the Supreme Court’s seminal decision in Morguard Investments Ltd. v. De Savoye in 1990, it is well established law that the real and substantial connection test for jurisdiction simpliciter is intended to be “correlated” with the real and substantial connection test used as a predicate for enforcing foreign judgments. Does this mean that courts are now supposed to use the new Van Breda framework for jurisdiction simpliciter in the judgment enforcement context? This article argues that the real and substantial connection framework established by the Court in Van Breda for jurisdiction simpliciter should not be exported outside of the particular context in which it was developed. The Van Breda approach to jurisdiction simpliciter, although seemingly straightforward, is actually a blunt tool for assessing jurisdiction – and any concerns with its application would only be magnified if applied to the enforcement of foreign judgments.

A copy of the article is available at SSRN here.

Foreign judgments not subject to limitation periods, Ontario Court rules

October 2, 2013
Salvador Dali, Melting Clock

Salvador Dali, Melting Clock

In a ground-breaking decision, Mr. Justice Newbould in PT ATPK Resources TBK (Indonesia) v. Diversified Energy and Resource Corporation et al., 2013 ONSC 5913 (Ont. S.C.J.-Commercial List) (“ATPK”) held that truly foreign judgments (i.e. non-inter-provincial judgments or U.K. judgments subject to the Reciprocal Enforcement of Judgments (U.K.) Act,  RSO 1990, c R.6 (as am.) (REJUKA)) are not subject to any limitation period for recognition and enforcement purposes.

In ATPK, the applicant, PT ATPK RESOURCES TBK (Indonesia) (“ATPK”) applied for “registration” and enforcement against Hopaco Properties Limited (“Hopaco”) of two judgments of the High Court of the Republic of Singapore. Of course, “registration” is a misnomer, since Canada and Singapore have not entered into any bi-lateral enforcement treaty, such that recognition or enforcement is governed under traditional Canadian conflict of laws principles. (more…)

Why Lawyers Should Always Read the Footnotes in Judgments

June 12, 2013

The decision of Justice Newbould in Re Ghana Gold Corporation2013 ONSC 3284 (Ont. SCJ) [“Ghana Gold”] is an important reminder to always the read the footnotes in judgments. (more…)


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