By Sarah D. PinsonnaultDe Grandpré Joli-Coeur s.e.n.c.r.l./LLP
In the recent decision Roussel vs Desjardins Sécurité financière, compagnie d'assurance-vie (2012 QCCQ 3835), the Court clerk refused the plaintiff’s inscription for proof and hearing and the declaration made under s. 274.1 CCP due to the fact that they bore electronic signatures as opposed to original ones.
In her analysis, Madam Justice Lina Bond summarized the general rules of procedure regarding the drafting of proceedings, as well as the definition of “signature” in the Civil Code of Québec, the Code of civil procedure, the Regulation of the Court of Québec, and the Act to establish a legal framework for information technology. The judge concluded with the following:
"La signature, c'est une modalité permettant d'identifier un individu, une façon d'exprimer son consentement à un acte et d'assurer aux tiers que le signataire est bien l'auteur des documents ou de l'acte.
Le Tribunal conclut que la signature électronique d'un avocat sur une procédure est valable et que le greffe aurait dû accepter et noter au plumitif l'inscription et la déclaration (274.1 C.p.c.)." (our underlining)
Following which, Justice Bond writes that the clerk possibly refused to accept the electronic signatures for fear of potential fraud, counterfeiting, or forgery. However, she adds that lawyers are never shielded from this potential risk and that this possibility should not render electronic signatures invalid. Ultimately, should ever a lawyer’s signature be forged, the latter may always contest it by means of s. 2828 CCQ.
This judgement is a very good example of how advancements in technology are having an impact on court proceedings. As the population becomes more and more dependant on technology to carry-out their daily business, it could become potentially cumbersome on lawyers should the courts remain stagnant and not keep up with the times.
To read the decision in its entirety, click here.