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jeudi 4 juin 2015

Banks, Especially Those Doing Business Internationally, Have a Duty to Obtain Translations if they do not Understand the Judicial Proceedings Being Served Upon Them

By Sarah D. Pinsonnault

In Suleman c. National Commercial Bank, 2015 QCCS 2112, the National Commercial Bank (the “Bank”), being one of the largest international banks in Saudi Arabia, presented a motion in revocation of a judgement rendered by default which ordered it to pay $261,900 to Mr. Suleman. The latter, a self-represented litigant, instituted an action against the Bank before the Superior Court of Québec and drafted all of his legal proceedings in English (the language of correspondence between the parties). Amongst these proceedings was a “Motion for a Special Mode of Service” that, albeit drafted in English, bore the stamp “Requête accordée” after having been granted by the Court clerk. 

Being at the reception stage of the Bank’s Motion in Revocation, it argued, inter alia, that because the stamp granting the Motion for a Special Mode of Service was in French, it did not fully grasp the significance of Mr. Suleman’s legal proceedings and this constituted a sufficient reason for revocation. 

The Superior Court, presided by the Honourable Claudine Roy, S.C.J., however did not consider this a serious cause for revocation and found that the Bank, given its “high level of awareness and sophistication”, should have reacted differently to Mr. Suleman’s legal proceedings: 
“[20] The legal department of the Bank received Mr. Suleman’s Introductory Motion, two notices of presentation, the Motion for Special Mode of Service, the sworn statement in support of the Motion and the exhibits. All documents were in English, the language of correspondence between the parties. 
“[21] The heading of the Introductory Motion clearly indicates that the document is a proceeding filed in the Superior Court and that Mr. Suleman is the Plaintiff and the Bank, the Defendant. The conclusions of the Motion ask for a pecuniary condemnation of the Bank. The Motion was accompanied with a clear and explicit notice that the Plaintiff had filed the action in the office of the Court. The notice explained how the Defendant could file an appearance and answer the claim. 
[22] The words “Requête accordée” on the Motion for a Special Mode of Service are in French but are stamped only on the Motion for a Special Mode of Service, not on the Introductory Motion itself. The Bank does not claim it disregarded the Motion because it was not served validly, but because it did not believe it was a judicial proceeding. Furthermore, given the level of awareness and sophistication of the Bank, doing business internationally, if it did not understand the expression, it was its duty to obtain the translation. 
[23] This is not a case where a subordinate employee received a legal proceeding and did not transfer it to the appropriate person in time for the Bank to appear. Mr. Suleman was doing business with the Chief Financial Strategist of the Bank. Three letters of demand were received by the legal department of the Bank warning of the upcoming legal proceedings. Both the Chief Legal Advisor and the Chief Counsel replied to each of them. The Bank admits having received the Introductory Motion. 
[24] The Court concludes there is no prima facie cause of revocation. It took more than one year between the service of the Motion and the judgment. The Bank had plenty of time to react. The laxism of the Bank is an obstacle to the reception of the Motion in Revocation.” (references omitted; emphasis added)

To read this decision and other elements discussed therein, click here.


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