12 Juin 2013

If you receive proceedings in French and cannot understand them, a lawyer’s assistance should be sought

By Marie-Hélène Beaudoin
McCarthy Tétrault

We previously discussed the issue that ignorance of French
does not constitute cause for revocation of a judgment. In Caï c. Yang, 2013 QCCA
1009, the Court of Appeal brought a new perspective to the reasoning behing
that conclusion, and added that ignorance of French does not justify tardiness
in presenting a motion for revocation. According to the Court seeing that a
company must be represented by a lawyer in proceedings in the Province of
Quebec, one cannot plead that they ignored the contents of a judgment drafted
in French when they neglected to consult a lawyer upon receiving same.

« [32]        As a legal person, H & C Canada
Inc. could not appear in court except if it was represented by a lawyer,
according to subparagraph (a) of article 61 , paragraph 1 C.C.P. Had Ms. Caï,
as sole representative of the company, consulted a lawyer, the appellants would
have immediately learned that a legal claim had been made against the company
and Ms. Caï personally and that they had been held in default. It was negligent
not to have sought out legal counsel on a timely basis.
The purpose of the formality of reception of a motion for revocation is
to allow the receiving judge to dismiss, at the earliest possible stage,
motions for revocation that have no chance of success on the face of the
record, in particular by reason of inexcusable lateness or futility.[3] The
judge was of the view that there was no reason to excuse the late motion and
the appellants have shown no grounds for disturbing the judgment.
As a final note on this point, there is no evidence to support the
allegation that Ms. Yang chose to serve documents in French upon Ms. Caï with a
view to taking advantage of her inability to understand that language.
[…] »

In this case, the Court also considered that the Appellants had received
a demand letter written in plain English and that they were therefore fully
aware of the action brought against them.

Had the Appellants been only personally sued, the Court suggests that,
if not a lawyer, a translator should at least have been consulted.

The decision is available here.


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