It is important to develop a theory of the case before instituting any legal action. This pragmatic inquiry ensures that all of the legal requirements giving rise to the conclusions sought are addressed. In cases where the plaintiff has sued several parties in the same action, it is important to analyse the relationship that exists between them and the plaintiff, for this determines, inter alia, the applicable legal provisions, the correct procedural vehicle to take, and the main components of the burden of proof that must be met. Sauvé c. Simard, 2015 QCCA 313 serves as a reminder of the importance of this preliminary step in the preparation of a lawsuit.
Roughly a year after having bought his single-family home, the Appellant noticed mold growing in his basement. The mold continued to get worse and he hired an expert to analyse the problem. The latter informed him that not only did his home have latent defects but also that there were defects that should have been detected during the pre-purchase inspection.
As a result, the Appellant served his vendor and the company he hired for the pre-purchase inspection (“ASIB”) with demand letters, followed by a motion to institute proceedings. It bears noting that this motion was essentially based on the regime of contractual liability, in that it included claims against the vendor who was bound to warrant that the property he sold had no latent defects, and ASIB on the grounds that it failed to meet its contractual obligations as a service-provider.
That being said, the Appellant’s motion also personally targeted the inspector who performed the pre-purchase inspection on behalf of ASIB. However, the Appellant’s motion alleged no extra-contractual fault committed by the inspector, nor did it contain any conclusion seeking to lift ASIB’s corporate veil.
The inspector consequently asked for the dismissal of the action instituted against him by the Appellant by stating that it was solely based on contractual liability and that no legal relationship existed between himself and the Plaintiff. The presiding judge, George Massol, J.C.Q., granted the inspector’s motion for dismissal with costs and remarked that the Applicant essentially made his bed and must lie in it:
“Attendu qu’à défaut d’allégués à l’effet contraire, le demandeur est présumé avoir utilisé un seul faisceau de responsabilité en ce qui concerne l’inspection préalable et qu’en vertu de l’article 1458 (alinéa 2) C.c.Q., il ne peut opter pour des règles différentes qui lui seraient plus profitables ;”
The Court of Appeal concurred with Justice Massol’s findings and ruled that:
“ De l’avis de la Cour, c’est à bon droit que le juge de première instance a conclu de la sorte.
 L’appelant blâme l’intimé de ne pas avoir relevé les indices démontrant la présence d’un vice plus sérieux et de ne pas l’en avoir informé. Il lui reproche de ne pas avoir satisfait aux obligations qui sont de l’essence même du contrat d’inspection préachat. Il s’agit donc clairement d’un recours de nature contractuelle. Comme l’intimé n’a agi qu’à titre de préposé d’ASIB et non à titre personnel, il ne peut avoir engagé sa responsabilité.” (reference omitted)
It appears as though the Appellant raised an extra-contractual argument against the inspector in his factum. However, the Court of Appeal noted that this allegation was made too late in the game:
“ L’appelant écrit dans son mémoire que l’intimé n’a pas agi comme une personne raisonnable au sens de l’article 1457 C.c.Q. Or, cette prétention ne se retrouve nulle part dans sa requête introductive d’instance, laquelle n’allègue aucun fait de nature à retenir la responsabilité extracontractuelle de l’intimé.”
The Appellant’s appeal of Justice Massol’s decision was therefore dismissed with costs.
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