Summary Trial Review – Hryniak v. Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7

The Importance of Proportionality

The principle of proportionality and efficiency is often discussed and considered in summary trial applications.

The principle of proportionality speaks to access to justice, which was further highlighted in the Supreme Court of Canada decision referenced as Hryniak v. Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7.

The Hryniak decision was an appeal from a decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal which overturned a decision in connection with a summary judgment application. As a side note, the Ontario rules are not similar to the BC rules. The matter went before the Supreme Court of Canada, and the Court of Appeal decision was overturned. Justice Karakatsanis of the Supreme Court of Canada appealed to the industry with her plea that a shift needed to occur in the industry across the Country in connection with favouring these hearings.

Oftentimes, you will see this quote in various summary trial applications across the Country:

“Our civil justice system is premised upon the value that the process of adjudication must be fair and just.  This cannot be compromised.  However, undue process and protracted trials, with unnecessary expense and delay, can prevent the fair and just resolution of disputes.  If the process is disproportionate to the nature of the dispute and the interests involved, then it will not achieve a fair and just result. “

“A shift in culture is required.  The proportionality principle is now reflected in many of the provinces’ rules and can act as a touchstone for access to civil justice.  The proportionality principle means that the best forum for resolving a dispute is not always that with the most painstaking procedure.  Summary judgment motions provide an opportunity to simplify pre-trial procedures and move the emphasis away from the conventional trial in favour of proportional procedures tailored to the needs of the particular case.  Summary judgment rules must be interpreted broadly, favouring proportionality and fair access to the affordable, timely and just adjudication of claims.”

Although the importance of proportionality was addressed in this case, there has been much debate in BC with respect to the impact that the Hryniak decision had on the law in our Province. It has been clarified in a recent decision that Hryniak did not change the law in British Columbia. Please refer to N.J. v. Aitken Estate, 2014 BCSC 419 (CanLII), in which the Honourable Mr. Justice Ehrcke states:

In my view, Hryniak v. Mauldin does not change the law regarding summary trials in British Columbia, and does not render the jurisprudence from our Court of Appeal obsolete.

It must be remembered that Hryniak v. Mauldin was dealing with the Ontario rules, which are different from our rules in British Columbia. In particular, at para. 68, the Court stressed the fact that under Ontario Rule 20.04 (2) “The Court shall grant summary judgment if, (a) the court is satisfied that there is no genuine issue requiring a trial…” In contrast, our Rule 9-7(15) uses the word “may” rather than “shall”. I therefore do not take Hryniak v. Mauldin to derogate from the proposition that in British Columbia, the question of whether a matter is suitable for summary determination is within the discretion of the trial judge, provided, of course, that the decision must be exercised judicially.

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