Standing and the Inherent Jurisdiction of Courts in Trust Matters
In the recent decision of Carroll v Toronto-Dominion Bank, 2021 ONCA 38, the Ontario Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of an applicant for lack of standing to bring the application, notwithstanding that the application related to an alleged breach of trust. Standing is required to sue for breaches of trust.
In this matter, the applicant, Marion Carroll, was formerly employed by Toronto-Dominion Bank (“TD Bank”), as a manager who was responsible for the compliance of a group of TD Bank’s subsidiaries relating to the management of mutual funds. Among other things, Ms. Carroll claimed to have exposed regulatory non-compliance and breaches of mutual funds trusts by TD Bank’s subsidiaries. In 2019, Ms. Carroll issued an application against TD Bank with respect to its role as Trustee of designated mutual funds.
The motion’s judge dismissed the application pursuant to Rule 21.01 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, finding that Ms. Carroll lacked standing to bring the application. Ms. Carroll appealed that ruling to the Ontario Court of Appeal.
While the Ontario Court of Appeal addressed other issues within this appeal, the focus of this article will be to highlight the Court’s finding that standing is required to sue for breaches of trust.
Ms. Carroll’s position was that once a court is informed of allegations of a potential breach of trust, the inherent jurisdiction of courts to administer trusts makes standing “subordinate, and largely irrelevant, where allegations of fraudulent or improper misconduct are made against a trustee,” thereby obliging the courts to resolve the litigation. Ms. Carroll also furthered the position that the courts of equity have removed the requirement of standing to protect the interests of incapacitated beneficiaries who cannot effectively sue to enforce trust obligations.
The Court rejected Ms. Carroll’s position stating that the claim that standing is subordinate or irrelevant “misconceives the true nature of the inherent jurisdiction of courts to supervise or administer trusts and is contrary to basic trust principles.” Although, the courts have previously extended access to the court’s inherent jurisdiction to creditors or contingent beneficiaries, the Court noted that the implications of Ms. Carroll’s position would result in strangers being able to enforce trust benefits that beneficiaries are entitled to, even if the beneficiaries choose not to enforce them, and that this would be contrary to the essential character of a trust.
The Courts are able to assist those with an interest in trusts by enforcing and compelling the performance of those trusts. Specifically, the Court noted that:
“the inherent jurisdiction to supervise and administer trusts exists to assist the parties to the trust relationship or those who are interested in the trusts. As such, the inherent jurisdiction of courts to supervise and administer trusts is not inconsistent with the imposition of standing requirements. To the contrary, it is entirely in keeping with the role inherent jurisdiction performs to ensure that those who seek to invoke the inherent jurisdiction to supervise or administer trusts have an interest in the trusts they seek to enforce.”
The Court of Appeal also discussed the following issues within this decision:
- Did the motion judge err by applying the wrong standing test?
- Did the motion judge err by finding that Ms. Carroll had not pleaded facts establishing a prima facie case of standing?
- Did the motion judge err by failing to consider all aspects of the relief sought when determining Ms. Carroll’s standing?
The Court concluded that the motion judge made none of the above-noted errors and dismissed the appeal.
Thank you for reading.