25 Fév 2015

The Importance of Developing a Theory of the Case

By Sarah D. Pinsonnault

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.

Context

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 ;”
Decision

The Court of Appeal concurred with Justice Massol’s findings and ruled
that:
“[7] De l’avis de la
Cour, c’est à bon droit que le juge de première instance a conclu de la sorte.
[8] 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:

“[9] 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.
To read this decision in its entirety, click here

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