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Civil Litigation - Trial Procedure

. 774161 Canada Ltd. v. Ford

In 774161 Canada Ltd. v. Ford (Div Court, 2023) the Divisional Court considered appellate deference on a discretionary adjournment decision, here of the commencement of the Small Claims trial [R52.02]:
[21] A reviewing court should show deference to a trial judge’s exercise of discretion in deciding whether to grant an adjournment, and only interfere in circumstances where the trial judge has misdirected themselves or where their decision is “clearly wrong”: See Ontario Securities Commission v. Go-To Developments Holdings Inc., 2022 ONCA 328 at para.11; Khimji v. Dhanani [2004] O.J. No. 200; CanLII 12037 (ON CA); 2004 CanLII 12037 (ON CA), 69 O.R. (3d) 790 at para. 14.


[24] A trial judge should consider the factors found in Rule 52.02, helpfully expanded upon in Ariston Realty Corp. v. Elcarim Inc., 2007 CanLII 13360 (ON SC), [2007] O.J. No. 1497 at para. 34. These expanded factors include: the objective of determining a matter on its merits; principles of natural justice, including that justice should be done and be seen to be done, the rationale and circumstances of the request for an adjournment, the consequences of an adjournment on the ability to do justice to the matter, the competing interests of the parties in advancing or delaying the progress of the litigation, the prejudice not compensable in costs, if any, suffered by a party by the granting or the refusing of the adjournment, whether the ability of the party requesting the adjournment to fully and adequately prosecute or defend the proceeding would be significantly compromised if the adjournment were refused, and the need of the administration of justice to orderly process civil proceedings and effectively enforce court orders.
. Narayan et al. v. Dhillon

In Narayan et al. v. Dhillon (Div Ct, 2020) the Divisional Court considered R52.06 ['Exclusion of witnesses'] where a person assisting a party was excluded from a Small Claims Court trial:
[7] Amongst other issues raised, the appellants argued that the trial judge erred in excluding Ms. Narayan from the courtroom at the beginning of the trial, before any evidence had been called. These are the circumstances. At the outset, the Deputy Judge asked whether anybody was seeking an exclusion of witnesses and counsel for the plaintiff answered that he was asking that Ms. Narayan should be included in the order. The Judge said that since she had been noted in default she was now only a witness, implying that she was no longer a party. Counsel for the defendants interjected and said that Ms. Narayan would be giving him instructions. The trial judge replied that if counsel was objecting, then exclusion was necessary so that her evidence would not be tainted. When counsel for the defendants asked rhetorically how he was going to get instructions without Ms. Narayan, the trial judge said that it was difficult because she was no longer a defendant. He asked if she was a director. Counsel for the defendants said she was an officer but Ms. Narayan herself interjected that this was incorrect, she was only an employee.

[8] The trial judge then said that if she was a director or president, he might have made an exception, but not for an employee. Counsel for the defendants said that she had full authority to be present for Airside. The Deputy Judge then asked how an employee could have full legal authority to represent the corporation. The Judge ruled that his “hands were tied … unless your friend agrees with it, the law is pretty clear on that. If there is an order for exclusion of witnesses, the parties are included…” Counsel for the plaintiff said that the defence could have Mr. Vaccarello, another defendant, giving instructions. The trial judge said that as an officer, he could give instructions. “An officer has the right to represent… a company, but not an employee [like Ms. Narayan].”


[9] The trial judge, in my opinion, erred in law in his understanding of his witness exclusions powers. The exclusion of witnesses is governed by Rule 52.06 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. The Rule states as follows:
R52.06 Exclusion of Witnesses

Order for Exclusion

52.06(1) The trial judge may, at the request of any party, order that a witness be excluded from the courtroom until called to give evidence, subject to subrule (2).

Order not to Apply to Party or Witness Instructing the Lawyer

52.06(2) An order under subrule (1) may not be made in respect of a party to the action or a witness whose presence is essential to instruct the lawyer for the party calling the witness, but the trial judge may require any such party or witness to give evidence before any other witnesses are called to give evidence on behalf of that party.
[10] Pertinent to subsection 2, Ms. Narayan was not only a witness, she was a person requested by defendants’ counsel to be present to instruct him during the trial. It had nothing whatever to do with whether she was an employee or an officer. Nor did it have anything to do with whether she was a “representative” of the company in any formal or legal sense. Counsel for the defendant had made the judgment that she was the best person to instruct him during the trial. He had an absolute right to this decision, barring exceptional circumstances of which there were none. In the words of 52.06(2), she was a “witness whose presence [was] essential to instruct the lawyer for the party calling the witness.”

[11] That Ms. Narayan was also going to be a witness, did not change anything. In Canadian Radio-Television & Telecommunications Commission v. Canada (Human Rights Tribunal), 1990 CarswellNat 614, [1990] F.C.J. No. 819, [1991] 1 F.C. 141 (F.C.T.D.) a witness had been excluded who also had been chosen as the instructing party by the C.R.T.C. Justice MacKay held that this was an error. Although relying principally on Section 50 of the Human Rights Act, Justice MacKay also held that the tribunal had breached its duty of fairness: see para. 24. To the argument that other individuals could have filled in to represent and instruct, Justice MacKay disagreed, saying,
25 …This surely is a question for C.R.T.C., not for the tribunal or for this Court.

26 … If [a party] …is not free to select its representative as it sees fit, then the person who stands in at the hearing and whose presence is primarily to instruct counsel may not have the full confidence of those responsible for the corporate or statutory body. That surely is the basis on which a body selects its representative and is the key to accepting the representative named as the person with the responsibility assigned by the corporation, or in this case C.R.T.C., to instruct counsel on its behalf. (Carswell)
[12] Arguably, the situation differs from Liu Estate v. Chau, (2004) 2004 CanLII 8234 (ON CA), 236 D.L.R. (4th) 711, [2004] O.J. No. 306 (Ont. C.A.) and my previous case of GFC Landscaping v. Januszewigz, 2018 ONSC 637, 289 A.C.W.S. (3d) 299 (Ont. S.C.J.) because it might be said that Ms. Narayan was not a party, unlike the situation in those decisions. However, there is no need to determine the esoteric issue of whether a party in default remains a “party” for the purpose of Rule 52.06(2).

[13] Whether a party or not, based on Rule 52.06, the defendants had the right to choose a person to instruct counsel acting on their behalf. That is the intention of the rule. Subsection 1 gives a broad discretion to a trial judge to exclude witnesses at the request of a party. This, however, on the clear statutory language, is subject to subsection 2 which prohibits the application of this provision to “a party to the action or a witness whose presence is essential to instruct the lawyer for the party calling the witness.” Even if Ms. Narayan was not a party, she was inarguably an essential person to instruct counsel.

[14] Presence at trial is a fundamental right and is a necessary adjunct of due process. It is a matter of actual fairness, the appearance of fairness and openness: Liu Estate v. Chau, at paras. 23-24, 27. If there are facts testified to by a party for the other side, such as the plaintiff Ms. Dhillon in this instance, counsel ought to have his choice of who to advise him with respect to cross-examination of the witness and any other pertinent matters which might arise. The instructing individual will generally have a more informed and in-depth factual knowledge than will the lawyer.

[15] Excluding Ms. Narayan from the trial was in contravention of the rules and was an error of law. The focus turns to whether there has been a miscarriage of justice. The leading Liu Estate case provides guidance not only on the exclusion from the courtroom issue but with respect to remedy as well. The first factor is that this was a very strong case for the plaintiff. Having read the entire transcript of the trial I believe that the trial judge’s bad faith and other negative findings of fact were fully justified. The invoices were a not so clever dodge to attempt to justify the failure to pay Ms. Dhillon for the work she had done. In their actions at the time and at the trial, there was considerable deceit practised by the defendants.
. Halton BMAC Mechanical Inc. v. Design Build Inc.

In Halton BMAC Mechanical Inc. v. Design Build Inc. (Ont CA, 2014) the Court of Appeal set out the factors to be considered when deciding a motion to re-open a trial after judgment has been given:
[9] Pursuant to rule 52.10 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, R.R.O. 1990, Reg. 194, to re-open the trial to hear additional evidence the appellant had to establish two points: (1) that the evidence would probably have altered the judgment and (2) that the evidence could not with reasonable diligence have been discovered sooner. See Becker Milk Co. Ltd. v. Consumers’ Gas Co. 1974 CanLII 545 (ON CA), (1974), 2 O.R. (2d) 554 (C.A.) at 557 and 671122 Ontario Ltd. v. Sagaz Industries Canada Inc., 2001 SCC 59 (CanLII), 2001 SCC 59, 204 D.L.R. (4th) 542.
. Malkov v. Stovichek-Malkov

In Malkov v. Stovichek-Malkov (Ont CA, 2018) the Court of Appeal cites factors to be taken into account when re-opening a trial:
[14] In Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, the court stated, at para. 17:
Factors which a court will consider in civil cases in determining whether to allow a plaintiff to re-open are set out below:

• At what stage of the trial is the motion made?

• Why was evidence not adduced during the party’s case? Did the party intentionally omit leading the evidence earlier? Or did the evidence only recently come to the party’s attention, despite diligent earlier efforts?

• What is the prejudice to the defendant? A defendant might have conducted his case differently if he had known and had an opportunity to investigate the evidence which is the subject of the motion.

• Can any prejudice be remedied in costs?

• How would a reopening of the case affect the length of the trial? How much evidence would have to be revisited?

• What is the nature of the evidence? Does it deal with an issue which was important and disputed from the beginning, or with a technical or non-controversial point? Does it merely “shore up” evidence led in chief?

• Is the proposed new evidence presumptively credible? [Footnotes omitted.]
[15] We agree that the Catholic Children’s Aid Society of Toronto case provides a helpful list of factors for a trial judge to consider when entertaining a party’s request to reopen her case. In our view, when the reasons of the trial judge for her ruling are read as a whole, they disclose that she took into account the factors most relevant to the specific circumstances of the case.


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Last modified: 12-04-23
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