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jeudi 14 octobre 2010

La négligence de la partie adverse est insuffisante pour justifier une requête pour être relevé du défaut d’inscrire dans le délai de 180 jours

par Nathan Williams

Dans 6270791 Canada inc. c. Cusacorp Management Ltd. (2010 QCCA 1814), la Cour d’appel était appelée à se pencher sur un jugement de la Cour supérieure ayant rejeté une requête pour être relevé du défaut d’inscrire la cause dans le délai de 180 jours.


Les faits sont essentiellement les suivants :

[7] The appellants' recourse began in December of 2005 with an action for the recovery of damages totalling $935,000 arising out of Cusacorp Management Inc.'s termination of a sub-lease for the operation of a café on the Sir George Williams campus of Concordia University, and the execution of a new sub-lease with Java-U Food Services Inc. Despite the withdrawal from the record of counsel for the appellants in November of 2006, new counsel were engaged in March of 2007. The parties having respected the timetable for the management of the case on which they had agreed, a seven-day trial from June 4 to June 12, 2008 was then fixed to proceed.
[8] It is at this point that matters began to go off the rails.
[9] The trial was postponed at the request of the appellants when they decided to add two new defendants, the respondents 4249704 Canada Inc. and Café Java U Inc. It was ordered that a new timetable be agreed upon for which the 180-day delay would expire on November 3, 2008. In the interim, in July of 2008, the then most recent counsel for the appellants also ceased to represent them. The firm that now appears of record for the appellants eventually replaced the firm that had withdrawn.
[10] The timetable that governed the conduct of the case, however, was not respected to the letter, thus giving rise to the appellants' motion to extend the delays dated November 6, 2008, that is, three days after the expiry of the 180-day delay of November 3, 2008. That motion alleged, essentially, that the new attorneys had only recently been provided with the complete file, that consultations with the appellant Philip Ilijevski ensued to bring the new attorneys up to speed in terms of their understanding of the file, and that it had been recognized too late that an inscription had to be filed by November 3, 2008. The motion was supported by an affidavit from both Mr. Ilijevski and the attorney acting on his behalf.
À l’appui de leur requête, les demandeurs invoquaient notamment avoir été dans l’impossibilité d’agir suite au défaut par deux des défendeurs de produire leur défense au temps prévu à l’échéancier convenu.

Subsidiairement, devant la Cour d’appel, le procureur des appelants soutint que la latitude et la courtoisie dont il avait voulu faire preuve à l’égard des défendeurs s’étaient avérées en défaveur des demandeurs. Il invoqua que le juge de première instance avait erré en droit en ne considérant pas le préjudice subi par les demandeurs et engendré par cette erreur.

La Cour d’Appel confirme la décision du juge de Grandpré, rejette le motif fondé sur l’inaction des défendeurs comme impossibilité d’agir pour les demandeurs et mentionne au passage que le temps écoulé entre l’expiration du délai et la présentation de la requête ainsi que l’absence de preuve quant à l’impossibilité d’agir et à la non-connaissance de l’erreur invoquée par les demandeurs sont autant de facteurs pertinents à considérer dans la détermination du sort de la demande :

[23] First, the appellants' motion to be relieved of their default to inscribe the case for trial was made presentable on September 15, 2009, close to four months after May 22, 2009, the date of the expiry of the most recent time period contemplated by the timetable Emery, J. authorized by his judgment of December 11, 2008 (article 151.1 C.C.P.). Curiously, the motion in the Superior Court de Grandpré, J. heard bears the incorrect date of "le 29 août 200". The affidavit in support of it is similarly incorrectly dated "ce 31 août 2008", while the notice of presentation is dated August 29, 2009.

[24] The allegations in the motion do not explain the lengthy delay between the expiry of the previous timetable and the date of the motion, which we presume to be August 29, 2009. The unexplained extent of the delay after the expiry of the time limit is a factor that can properly weigh in the exercise of the discretion of the judge who is called upon to adjudicate the motion. That was the first reason given by de Grandpré, J. to dismiss the motion, and we see no error in his having exercised his discretion in that manner.

[25] Second, the motion itself essentially invokes the fault of the respondents and asserts that the state of the file as it then stood was due to the negligence or refusal to act of the respondents' counsel. In particular, the motion alleges the cancellation of a discovery of Mr. Ilijevski at the last minute after he had returned to Montreal from Japan where he had been working, and the failure to file their defences on a timely basis despite undertakings to do so. There is no hint or suggestion in the motion of the appellants' impossibility to act as a result, nor that the appellants' counsel committed any error at all in their management of the file.

[26] Third, we note that the affidavit in support of the motion, incorrectly dated as it is, is subscribed by the appellants' counsel, and not by either Mr. Ilijevski or a different representative of the other appellant, 6270701 Canada Inc.

[...]

[35] In our view, if counsel seek relief on a motion to extend time limits based on their negligence, they should have the candour to so concede in their motion, much like the appellants counsel did in the motion that Emery, J. granted. Similarly, if it is also alleged that it was impossible for their client to act on a timely basis because of their negligence, there should be proof in the record, in the form of an affidavit or otherwise, that the client was unaware of the negligent character of their conduct and the consequences of same. Mere argument, without evidence, should not suffice.

[36] In this case, there is nothing in the record that indicates the state of knowledge of Mr. Ilijevski, one way or the other, after the most recent timetable had been agreed upon.

[37] A favourable interpretation to the appellants and their counsel of the circumstances of this case would do little to discourage the kind of sloppy practice the record reveals, and would only serve to benefit those who continue to act without a minimum of diligence. It would also unduly undermine the authority of trial judges in the management of files when they have before them motions of the kind the appellants presented to de Grandpré, J., with the record he had before him.

Le texte intégral du jugement est disponible ici: http://bit.ly/amdlOc

Référence neutre: [2010] CRL 181

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