Posts Tagged Canada
Thank you Stephen Pittel for flagging 2017 SCC 33 Douez v Facebook Inc. Stephen also discusses the forum non conveniens issue and I shall leave that side of the debate over to him. What is interesting for comparative purposes is the Supreme Court’s analysis of the choice of court clause in consumer contracts, which it refuses to enforce under public policy reasons, tied to two particular angles:
- ‘The burdens of forum selection clauses on consumers and their ability to access the court system range from added costs, logistical impediments and delays, to deterrent psychological effects. When online consumer contracts of adhesion contain terms that unduly impede the ability of consumers to vindicate their rights in domestic courts, particularly their quasi-constitutional or constitutional rights, public policy concerns outweigh those favouring enforceability of a forum selection clause.’ (emphasis added)
Infringement of privacy is considered such quasi-constitutional right.
- ‘Tied to the public policy concerns is the “grossly uneven bargaining power” of the parties. Facebook is a multi-national corporation which operates in dozens of countries. D is a private citizen who had no input into the terms of the contract and, in reality, no meaningful choice as to whether to accept them given Facebook’s undisputed indispensability to online conversations.’
With both angles having to apply cumulatively, consumers are effectively invited to dress up their suits as involving a quasi-constitutional issue, even if all they really want is their PSP to be exchanged, so to speak. I suspect however Canadian courts will have means of sorting the pretended privacy suits from the real ones.
A great judgment for the comparative binder (see also Jutta Gangsted and mine paper on forum laboris in the EU and the US here).
Interestingly enough the issue of inclusion of foreign victims in class action suits came up in conversation around our dining room the other day. (Our youngest daughter, 15, is showing encouraging signs of an interest in a legal career). In 2017 ONCA 792 Airia Brands Inc v Air Canada is reviewed excellently by Dentons here and I am happy to refer. (See also here for Norton Rose reporting on related cases – prior to the CA’s decision in Airia Brands).
The jurisdiction and ‘real and substantial connection’ analysis referred to Van Breda (which recently also featured mutatis mutandis in the forum necessitatis analysis in Cook).
Certification of global classes was part of the classic analysis of developments in international class action suits, which hit us a few years back when many EU states started introducing it. Airia Brands shows that the concerns are far from settled.
In Fernandes v. Wal-Mart Canada 2017 MBCA 96 the Court of Appeal of Manitoba offers great material for comparative conflict of laws. I will leave the Canadian analysis to the experts, in particular Chloe Snider who alerted me to the case. Suffice to say here that the gist of the ruling is that where a corporation carries on business in the territory (here: Wal MArt operating stores), this suffices to establish jurisdiction (here: re an employment issue): no ‘real and substantive connection’ test needs to be separately established. (Cue comparative litigation: compare with ‘domicile’ and extended notions of domicile in EU conflicts law).
The action was eventually still stayed on forum non conveniens grounds in favour of Ontario (extra cue for comparative review here: for this was so held despite the fact that the Ontario limitation period had probably expired).
Thank you Dentons for flagging 2016 ONCA 836 Cook v 1293037 Alberta Ltd, on the application of the forum of necessity or forum necessitatis doctrine in the Canadian courts. A doctrine which in some way or another allows a court to be used as court of last resort, should no other court be reasonably be available to plaintiff. Those States which do have it (Belgium, for instance: In Article 11 of its Statute; readers of the blog will also remember the EC suggested its introduction in the Brussels I Recast (Article 26 of COM(2010)748), but failed) all insist the jurisdictional trigger can only be exercised in the most exceptional of circumstance.
Cook v 129…Alberta is a good illustration of this exceptional nature. The Canadian Supreme Court set out the conditions in 2012 SCC 17 Van Breda v Village Resorts Ltd. Appellants had made a tactical decision not to bring their action in Alberta, the natural forum of the case. The limitation period for bringing the action in Alberta has now expired. They should under the circumstance not be allowed to bring the action in Ontario.
Does someone somewhere have an (undoubtedly slim) catalogue of those forum necessitatis actions which did succeed?
(Handbook of) European private international law, 2nd ed.2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.4 (p.68.)
Happy days!: ‘closest and most real connection’ for identifying lex contractus. Ontario CA in Lilydale v Meyn.
Lilydale v Meyn at the Ontario Court of Appeal (held April 2015 but only reaching me now – thank you to Michael Shafler and colleagues for flagging) is a useful reminder of the common law approach to determining lex contractus in the absence of choice of law. (Here of course an inter-State conflicts issue between Ontario and Alberta). Laskin JA refers in support to english precedent, summarised in quoted passage of Cheshire’s Private International Law:
The court must take into account, for instance, the following matters: the domicil and even the residence of the parties; the national character of a corporation and the place where its principal place of business is situated; the place where the contract is made and the place where it is to be performed; the style in which the contract is drafted, as, for instance, whether the language is appropriate to one system of law, but inappropriate to another; the fact that a certain stipulation is valid under one law but void under another … the economic connexion of the contract with some other transaction … the nature of the subject matter or its situs; the head office of an insurance company, whose activities range over many countries; and, in short, any other fact which serves to localize the contract.
The motion judge’s findings on the relevant criteria were held to be reasonable, as was her overall conclusion that the closest and most real connection to the contract was Ontario.
The case is an interesting reminder of what in the Rome I Regulation is now the final resort, should none of the relevant presumptions in Article 4 apply.
An interesting point in the judgment is the main reason why parties prefer one law over the other: at 3: ‘The issue is important because Alberta and Ontario have different ultimate limitation periods. Even taking into account discoverability, Alberta’s ultimate limitation period is 10 years; Ontario’s is 15 years. The parties agreed that Lilydale’s cause of action arose no later than August 31, 1994. Therefore, as Lilydale did not sue until January 2006, if Alberta law applied, its action was statute-barred; if Ontario law applied, it was not.’
Aren’t statutes of limitation under Canadian conflict of laws, covered by lex fori, as procedural issues, and not, as is seemingly accepted here, lex causae?
The exam season is over, otherwise Goldhar v Haaretz would have made a great case for comparative analysis. Instead this can now feed into class materials. This is an interlocutory judgment on the basis of lack of jurisdiction and /or abuse of process. Plaintiff lives in Toronto. He is a billionaire who owns i.a. Maccabi Tel Aviv. (Chelsea’s first opponent in the Champions League. But that’s obviously an aside). Mr Goldhar visits Israel about five or six times per year. Defendant is Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd. which publishes Haaretz, Israel’s oldest daily newspaper (market share about 7%). It also publishes an English language print edition. Haaretz is published online in both English and Hebrew.
Haaretz published a very critical article on Mr Goldhar in November 2011. The print version was not published in Canada, in either English or Hebrew. However, Haaretz was made available internationally on its website in Israel in both Hebrew and English – the judgment does not say so specifically however I assume this was both on the .co.il site – even if currently Haaretz’ EN site is available via a .com site.
Information provided by the defendants reveals that there were 216 unique visits to the Article in its online form in Canada. Testimony further showed that indeed a number of people in Canada read the article – this was sufficient for Faieta J to hold that a tort was committed in Ontario and thus a presumptive connecting factor exists. Presumably this means that the court (and /or Canadian /Ontario law with which I am not au fait) view the locus delicti commissi (‘a tort was committed’) as Canada – a conclusion not all that obvious to me (I would have assumed Canada is locus damni only). Per precedent, the absence of a substantial publication of the defamatory material in Canada was not found to be enough to rebut the finding of jurisdiction.
Forum non conveniens was dismissed on a variety of grounds, including applicable law being the law of Ontario (again Ontario is identified as the locus delicti commissi: at 48). Plaintiff will have to cover costs for the appearance, in Canada, of defendants’ witnesses. Importantly, plaintiff will also only be able to seek damages for reputational harm suffered within Canada.
I can see this case (and the follow-up in substance) doing the rounds of conflicts classes.