Summary Judgment and Limitation Periods in Will Challenges

January 23, 2020 Doreen So Estate & Trust, Estate Litigation, Litigation, Uncategorized Tags: , , 0 Comments

Earlier this week, I wrote two blogs on the limitations issue in Piekut v. Romoli, 2019 ONSC 1190, 2020 ONCA 26.  The facts in that case were briefly summarized here.

The testators died in 2008.  The family realized there was a disagreement about the validity of their parents’ codicils that year but everything seemed to be on hold until Helen brought an application in 2015 to determine the validity of the codicil.  In response, Krystyna brought a motion for summary judgment to dismiss Helen’s application on the basis it is statute barred pursuant to the Limitations Act, 2002.  This motion was brought by Krystyna because she was interested in maintaining the force and effect of the codicils that gave her certain properties.  Thereafter, Helen cross-motioned for summary judgment on her application.

Rule 20.04 of the Rules of Civil Procedure sets out the basis for summary judgment.  Summary judgment shall be granted if: (a) the court is satisfied that there is no genuine issue requiring a trial with respect to a claim or defence; or (b) if the parties agree to have all or part of the claim determined by a summary judgment and the court is satisfied that it is appropriate to grant summary judgment.  The Supreme Court of Canada in Hryniak v. Maudlin, 2014 SCC 7, determined that “a trial is not required if a summary judgment motion can achieve a fair and just adjudication, if it provides a process that allows the judge to make the necessary findings of fact, apply the law to those facts, and is a proportionate, more expeditious and less expensive means to achieve a just result than going to trial.”

With that in mind, Justice Dietrich found that Krystyna’s motion for summary judgment was appropriate for the following reasons (see para. 35):

  • There were no material facts in dispute;
  • No additional facts would emerge at trial;
  • The application of an absolute limitation period was generally a fairly straightforward factual analysis;
  • That based on the evidence before her, this matter can be resolved without a trial and that a trial of this narrow issue would be a more expensive and lengthy means of achieving a just result.

The Ontario Court of Appeal agreed with Justice Dietrich’s finding on this point.  The panel emphasized how both parties brought summary judgment motions and filed affidavits with exhibits of their own.

In contrast, a similar summary judgment motion was unsuccessful in Birtzu v. McCron, 2017 ONSC 1420, 2019 ONCA 777 (on the issue of costs, only).  The Court in Birtzu found that summary judgment was not appropriate and ordered costs against the defendant in any event of the cause (with reasons that were unreported).  That said, the defendant was ultimately successful in proving that the plaintiffs were statute barred after a full trial on all issues.

Thanks for reading!

Doreen So and Celine Dookie

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