Case Brief 001- Small Claims Court
Welcome to my first case brief summary! Starting this week I will be posting 4-5 case brief summaries every Sunday taken from recent court decisions published on CanLII (The Canadian Legal Information Institute). The cases I pick will generally fall within the paralegal scope of practice, and I do try to pick cases where one of the parties are represented by a paralegal. I believe this will be a good way for those of you interested in the profession to gain a better understanding of “what paralegals actually do”. This was done in an effort to keep myself reading and informed of the law while in school, and for readers who may find this interesting and helpful. The summaries are for educational purposes only, and is not meant to be used as legal advice.
Kicking off this week, all four cases are taken from Small Claims Court in Ontario. The topics coverd include rental agreements, arrears of rent, recovery of debt (at or under $25,000.00) and privity of contract. Disclaimer: I’m entirely new to writing case briefs, so please bear with me as I work on finding the best way to distill relevant information from each case and present it to you guys in the most efficient manner possible. I welcome (aka. want more than anything) all constructive criticism and feedback 🙂
Stamm Investments Limited v Ryan et al., 2015 CanLII 52577 (ON SCSM)
Representation: Mr. B. Parsons (paralegal for Plaintiff), no appearance for defendants
- Residential tenancy matter, former landlord (Stamm Investments) suing for unpaid rent against former tenants (Ryan & Marks), and their guarantor
- Tenants late with rent, a mediated settlement was reached but tenants defaulted again
- Landlord obtained termination of tenancy on August 15, 2013
- Worked things out with tenants and did not pursue eviction, tenants started paying rent again until December 2013. Stopped paying rent, evicted and moved out of unit on January 20, 2014 (still under 6 months expiry date on eviction order)
- Landlord under the impression tenants have to pay rent for another 60 days ater eviction
- Landlord claims unpaid rent from December 2013 to March 2014, sheriff’s fee for eviction, cleaning fee and unpaid hydro
- Do tenants have to pay rent from after they moved out on January 20 until March 2014? NO. Tenants have no obligation to pay rent after tenancy is terminated by the Residential Tenancy Board
- What about rent for December 2013 and from January 1 to January 20, 2014? Residential Tenancy Board has exclusive jurisdiction on the matter of unpaid rent, not under Small Claims Court jurisdiction
- Can landlord claim the sheriff’s eviction fee (cost to enforce the eviction) of $325? No. Small Claims Court has no jurisdiction for claims against tenants for enforcement costs
- Is the landlord successful in claiming cleaning costs? No. Landlord only provided affidavit with no detail how the $65 was charged, lacks proper supporting documentation.
- Is the landlord successful in claiming unpaid hydro bills? No. Hydro bill provided did not point to the unit tenants were occupying; only showing that hydro billed the entire building. Not enough evidence. Since rent from after tenants moved out cannot be enforced, hydro for those months won’t be enforced either.
- What can the landlord be awarded then? Actually nothing because it turns out the landlord actually owes tenants money. Tenants made partial payment of December 2013 rent, combined with last month’s rent already paid to landlord actually exceed amount owing. But since tenants did not file a claim for that money this claim is entirely dismissed.
- What about the guarantor? Can’t he/she be made to pay? No. The Landlord and Tenant Board have no jurisdiction over guarantors. So normally Small Claims Court can actually hear a claim regarding guarantor. However, because no money is actually owed by the tenants, there is no claim against the guarantor in this case.
- Does the guarantor have to pay the sheriff’s fee? No. If the tenants aren’t liable for the sheriff’s fee, and the guarantor’s liability is co-extensive with that of tenants, then the guarantor is not liable either.
Conclusion: The landlord (plaintiff)’s claim against the tenants are dismissed because it’s not within Small Claim Court’s jurisdiction. Even if it were under the court’s jurisdiction, would have been dismissed regardless due to lack of merit. Claim against guarantor is dismissed also.
U-Haul Company of Canada Ltd. v Cambridge Moving Supplies and Trailer Hitches, 2015 CanLII 52506 (ON SCSM)
Representation: Mr. Timothy C. Ellis (paralegal for the Plaintiff), Mr. Hootan Vani (Self-represented)
- Plaintiff sues for amount owing with defendant, Mr. Vani when plaintiff terminated their business agreement in August 2014
- Vani admits to owing about half of the amount claimed by plaintiff, but alleges that a variety of things owed to him by U-haul more than offsets his debt:
- Alleges U-Haul and plaintiff of committing fraud, error is accounting
- Alleges U-Haul owes him commission amounts set out in contract
- Alleges U-Haul withdrew money from his business account without permission, constituting invasion of privacy
- Claims damages of $16,000 to the asphalt of the property where his business is located by employee of U-Haul
- Asking for punitive damage of $5000
Issues/ Court’s Decision:
- Does the defendant (Vani) owe the plaintiff (U-Haul) money? Yes. Sufficient financial documentation satisfies balance of probabilities that they do.
- Did U-Haul commit fraud? Did they have error in accounting? No. Vani did not establish on balance of probabilities U-Haul had error in accounting, it was mostly his wishful thinking
- Does U-Haul owe him commission payments? No. Their contract says that commission incentives only payable if certain conditions are met. Vani did not meet these conditions. Even though U-Haul has paid in the past doesn’t mean they are legally liable to keep doing so, and waive the conditions if terms specified in contract are not met.
- Was there an invasion of privacy? Not sufficient evidence to prove so. Judge Winny was not satisfied that a redacted item on a bank statement enough to prove U-Haul did go into their account and withdrew that money. Merely showed there was a transaction on that date shown.
- Will Vani be awarded punitive damages? No. Judge Winny found no basis for such a “rare and exceptional” award
- Is U-Haul liable for the damage to the asphalt? No. Asphalt found (through photo exhibition) to be in much disrepair in the first place. The alleged incident where a U-Haul employee caused the damage is not considered an absolute liability in law, so its either negligence or just an accident. Vani did not establish all elements required to prove negligence, and because the asphalt was in such a state where it’s very susceptible to damage anyways, Judge Winny found this to be an accident à U-Haul not liable, neither are they vicariously liable for their employee’s conduct
- Vani not eligible to sue anyways because he did not own the property
Conclusion: Defendant would have benefited a great deal if he had legal representation. He failed to prove much of his allegations, or had no standing to the amount he was claiming. His claim was ultimately dismissed, and he is to pay costs. Judgment granted to the plaintiff’s claim, and is ordered to pay costs too.
Hammond Transportation Limited v Carey, 2015 CanLII 52709 (ON SCSM)
Representation: V. DeCaire (paralegal for the Plaintiff), D.Ryan (counsel for Defendant, Frank Demasi)
- Hammond provided bus services to a hockey club
- Hockey club was later sold to Cary, Fisher and Demasi
- The owners assumed debts of the hockey club including $25,000.00 owing to Hammond for outstanding bus services they provided
- Fisher filed consumer proposal in bankruptcy soon after club was purchased, so he is excluded from this debt for the purpose of this case
- Carey settled with Hammond [on his own] and agrees to pay $9,000.00 à which makes Demasi the focus of this case
- Demasi argues they are suing the wrong party, should go after the previous owners who contracted with Hammond, and Hammond was not a party of the contract [explicitly], so Demasi should be saved by privity of contract rule
Issues/ Court’s Decision:
- Can Demasi be saved by the privity of contract rule? No. Deputy Judge Lange cites SCC’s decision in Fraser River which set out that a third party (not named in the contract) may be able to sue on the contractual terms if this party benefits from the contract, and seeks to rely on the terms of the contract. Clearly this applies to Hammond: He seeks to benefit from being contracted for his bus services and relies on the contractual terms to recover the debt. The court found that Carey’s settlement with Hammond (for the $9000) is enough to confirm this intention. Thus privity of contract rule cannot save Demasi.
- Is Demasi liable for the debt? Yes. Because Demasi signed the purchase agreement of the club as one of the owners at the time and the contract assumed Hammond’s historical debt.
- Demasi states that he never actually became an owner of the club after the agreement was signed, and never got any profits, will this help him in this case? Not in this case. Judge finds Demasi still liable [because he did sign the contract after all]. He may have a cause of action against the other owners Carey and Fisher to recover the debt from them but that is a different proceeding. Keeping in mind that Fisher filed a consumer proposal already(which means he is legally released from his debts if the proposal went through).
AF Controls Canada Inc. v Metro Condominium Corporation 581 and Kamal Patel, 2015 CanLII 54163 (ON SCSM)
Representative: Rauf Ahmad (President of AF Controls Canada Inc.) representing his company; Mr. S. Malik (licensed paralegal) for the defendant
- This is a new written submission from both parties after the matter against the defendant was previously dismissed. Deputy Judge Marr allowed parties to make written submissions and here they are
- AF (plaintiff) seeks $7,892.81 for unpaid fire protection services provided to MTCC 581, a condominium corporation (defendant)
- MTCC 581 contests the legitimacy of the invoices being billed to them
- AF testified and produced exhibits in court showing the invoices kept on Quickbooks, the contract they signed with MTCC 581 for the work
- Technician who worked on the project from AF and superintendent at MTCC 581 testified to completion of the work and signing of the work orders
- MTCC 581’s current property manager testified but essentially couldn’t comment for or against the company, he did not receive the paperwork upon taking over
- MTCC 581 produced no evidence to defend its case and on cross-examination of the witnesses, was unable to disprove AF’s evidence
- Does MTCC 581 have to pay the debt owed to AF? Yes. The court makes a finding of fact that the evidence put forward by the plaintiff is enough to prove, on a balance of probabilities that MTCC 581 does owe them the money
- How will the cost/interest be dealt with in this case? If the plaintiff wishes that the defendant pay costs and pre-judgment and post-judgment interest, they need to serve written submissions to each other and all documents/correspondence must be filed with the court by the given dates in the decision and in compliance with the Courts of Justice Act.