20 Juil 2015

Does the Act of Reviving a Court File that has been Dormant for 7 Years Constitute an Abusive or Improper Use of Procedure under 54.1 C.C.P.?


By Sarah D. Pinsonnault

In Carrefour de la croisée inc.
c. Bouclair inc., 2015 QCCS 2937, the
Superior Court, presided by the Honourable Eva Petras, J.S.C., was confronted
with that very question. After having left the court file dormant for seven
years (January 2008 – January 2015), the Plaintiffs decided to suddenly serve
an expert’s report, exhibits in support thereof, an inscription for proof
and hearing on the merits, and a Rule 15 Declaration for readiness. The
Defendants alleged that this was an abusive or improper use of procedure as set
forth under article 54.1 C.C.P. and asked the Court to, inter alia, dismiss the Plaintiffs’ action on that basis.


Decision

As frustrating it may be, the Court noted that it could not set aside
the need to review the criteria established under article 54.1 C.C.P.:

“[30] While the Court understands the
Defendant’s frustration to suddenly see a file revive after what seems to be
seven years of inaction, the Court must examine whether the criteria of article
54.1 C.C.P. have been met.

[…]

[37] In
order to dismiss the action pursuant to article 54.1 C.C.P., the Court must be
convinced that the Plaintiffs have acted in bad faith. The Court does not have
such evidence.

[38] Bad faith cannot be presumed and neither
can abusiveness. The fact that there may have been a lack of diligence or
negligence on the part of the Plaintiffs does not automatically result in a
determination of abusive or improper proceedings, especially without bad faith.

[39] It is useful to site [sic] the following passage from a judgment of the Court of Appeal
rendered in 2010 in Cosoltec inc. v. Structure Laferté inc.

[68] Je note aussi la prudence du législateur quand il déclare à
l’art. 54.1 C.p.c. que les situations y décrites peuvent causer un abus, mais
n’en constituent pas automatiquement une preuve irréfragable puisqu’en vertu de
l’art. 54.2 C.p.c., l’auteur peut démontrer que son geste n’a pas été exercé de
manière excessive ou déraisonnable et se justifie en droit.

[69] L’oubli, le manque de diligence ou la négligence d’un avocat à
l’égard de l’échéancier convenu ou des engagements souscrits constituent des
manquements au contrat judiciaire. Ils ne sont pas sans conséquence pour
l’autre partie. Ils entraînent aussi un certain gaspillage des ressources
judiciaires (requête pour être relevé du défaut, requête en prolongation,
requête pour sanctions (rejet, radiation, etc.)). Mais ils ne constituent pas
pour autant des abus au sens de l’art. 54.1 C.p.c. Il faut en plus de la
mauvaise foi, de la témérité du mépris évident pour les règles de procédure ou
le contrat judiciaire, ou un détournement des fins de la justice.

[40] The Plaintiffs have proved, to the
satisfaction of the Court, that filing proceedings in order to be able to
inscribe for proof and hearing on the merits was not done so in an excessive or
unreasonable manner, although the length of time that it took to get there was
unnecessarily long. However, such a delay could be appropriately sanctioned by
a ruling on costs, and by not granting or limiting interest and/or the
additional indemnity.

[41] The courts have in the past determined
that excessive delays are not necessarily abusive in and of themselves if the
parties can justify such a delay, although the Court must say that the
justification in this case is not impressive.” (references omitted)

That being said, the Court noted that the inaction on the part of the
Plaintiffs was reciprocated by the Defendant who could have taken the necessary
steps to put its case in order (i.e. ask to have the suit dismissed because of
the inaction by the Plaintiffs).

Consequently, the Court ruled as follows:

“[49] Certainly, the Court believes that some
sanction would be appropriate for the length of time that the Plaintiffs took
in order to reactivate the case, but this can be decided by the judge who will
hear the case on the merits. It may very well be that not granting interest
and/or the additional indemnity, in the event of a favourable judgment to the
Plaintiffs, may be an appropriate sanction, as may be a ruling as to costs.

[50] The dismissal of an action is the ultimate
sanction and the Court must act with great prudence before granting such a
motion, even in circumstances such as these where there has been inaction for
such a long period of time.”

For these reasons, the Defendant’s motion to dismiss was dismissed,
however with costs granted against the Plaintiffs.

To read this decision in its entirety, click here.

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