Author: Doreen So

20 Feb

New SCC Decision on Duty to Disclose Trust to Beneficiaries

Doreen So Continuing Legal Education, Estate & Trust, Executors and Trustees, Passing of Accounts, Trustees, Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

The Supreme Court of Canada released a decision last Thursday that is a must read for estates and trusts practitioners.  Interestingly enough, Valard Construction Ltd. v. Bird Construction Co., 2018 SCC 8, arose from a commercial matter.

Bird was a general contractor for a construction project.  When Bird subcontracted with Langford, Langford was required to obtain a labour and material payment bond which named Bird as trustee of the bond.  If Langford was delinquent in paying its contractors, the bond would permit the contractor to sue and recover from Langford’s surety on the condition that notice of the claim must be made within 120 days of the last date in which work was provided to Langford.  Langford became insolvent and some of Valard’s invoices went unpaid.  Unfortunately, Valard was not notified of the existence of the bond and did not inquire about whether there was a bond in place until after the 120 day notice period.  The surety denied Valard’s claim and Valard sued Bird for breach of trust.  This matter was dismissed at first instance by the Alberta Queen’s Bench, dismissed again by the Alberta Court of Appeal, and finally reversed by the Supreme Court of Canada (with a dissent from Justice Karakatsanis).

Justice Brown for the majority (per McLachlin C.J., as she then was, Abella, Moldaver and Rowe J.J.) found that Bird had a fiduciary duty to disclose the terms of the trust, i.e. the bond, to Valard notwithstanding the fact that the express terms of the bond did not stipulate this requirement.  Justice Brown was clear that “While the ‘main source’ of a trustee’s duties is the trust instrument, the ‘general law’ which sets out a trustee’s duties, rights and obligations continues to govern where the trust instrument is silent” (para.15).  Justice Brown then went on to say that a beneficiary’s right to enforce the terms of the trust is precisely what keeps the trustee from holding the “beneficial as well as legal ownership of the trust property” (para. 18).  Otherwise, no one would have an interest in giving effect to the trust.

With this logic in mind, Justice Brown developed the following framework at paragraph 19,

“In general, wherever “it could be said to be to the unreasonable disadvantage of the beneficiary not to be informed” of the trust’s existence,[17] the trustee’s fiduciary duty includes an obligation to disclose the existence of the trust. Whether a particular disadvantage is unreasonable must be considered in light of the nature and terms of the trust and the social or business environment in which it operates,[18] and in light of the beneficiary’s entitlement thereunder. For example, where the enforcement of the trust requires that the beneficiary receive notice of the trust’s existence, and the beneficiary would not otherwise have such knowledge, a duty to disclose will arise.[19] On the other hand, “where the interest of the beneficiary is remote in the sense that vesting is most unlikely, or the opportunity for the power or discretion to be exercised is equally unlikely”,[20] it would be rare to find that the beneficiary could be said to suffer unreasonable disadvantage if uninformed of the trust’s existence.”

Thanks for reading and more to follow later this week on Valard Construction Ltd. v. Bird Construction Co.

Doreen So

30 Nov

Are retirement homes vicariously liable for the misconduct of their employees?

Doreen So Continuing Legal Education, Elder Law, Estate & Trust, Ethical Issues, General Interest, Litigation, Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

 

As a part two of blog from Monday, November 27, 2017, Justice Mew was also asked to consider the question of whether the owner of the retirement home was vicariously liable for the actions of Ms. Gibson-Heath.  To recap, Hoyle (Estate) v. Gibson-Heath, 2017 ONSC 4481, is about a personal support worker who was criminally convicted of stealing $229,000.00 from Clifford Hoyle, an elderly resident of a retirement home.  Ms. Gibson-Heath was an employee of the retirement home when she stole from Mr. Hoyle.

Justice Mew was asked to determine this issue in the context of a motion for summary judgment.  The motion record contained affidavits from Robert Regular, the sole director, officer, and shareholder of the retirement home, and Margaret Hoyle, one of Mr. Hoyle’s daughters.  Ms. Hoyle’s affidavit spoke to how her father was placed in the retirement home on a permanent basis after breaking his hip and his dementia had worsened.  Ms. Hoyle also spoke to how she had no input with respect to the personnel who will be taking care of her father while he is a resident of the retirement home.  On the other hand, the affidavit from Mr. Regular spoke to how he was not involved with selecting Ms. Gibson-Heath as Mr. Hoyle’s person service worker.  Mr. Regular also spoke to how the retirement home does not purport to offer or provide assistance with the management of a resident’s property or assets.

Justice Mew considered the leading case on vicarious liability for intentional torts, Bazley v. Curry1999 CanLII 692 (SCC), [1999] 2 SCR 534, which was a case that dealt with the liability of a non-profit organization in the context of the sexual abuse that one of its employees had perpetrated against a resident of one of its facilities.  The Supreme Court of Canada test was restated in paragraph 41 of Justice Mew’s reasons and in applying this test, he commented as follows,

“an important consideration when determining whether [the retirement home] should be vicariously liable for Ms. Gibson-Heath’s actions will be whether the additional care services she provided to Mr. Hoyle were an extension of, or associated with, her employment by [the owner of the retirement home] or whether what she was providing was, to use the language of the rental agreement, “extra nursing care” which would have been the responsibility of Mr. Hoyle or his family to obtain, organise and pay for.  Such evidence would assist the court in determining the extent to which the employer created or enhanced the risk of the wrong complained of and, hence, the application of the subsidiary factors described by McLachlin J. in Bazley v. Curry.

Ultimately, Justice Mew could not determine this question summarily based on the record before him and a case conference was ordered to discuss the appropriate next steps regarding the issues against the retirement home.  Costs of the motion, as it relates to the summary judgment motion against the retirement home, were reserved to the trial judge after considering the Parties’ costs submissions.

Thanks for reading this week!

Doreen So

 

27 Nov

Are personal support workers and caregivers fiduciaries?

Doreen So Elder Law, Estate & Trust, Ethical Issues, Executors and Trustees, General Interest, In the News, Litigation Tags: , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

In a recent decision of the Superior Court, Justice Mew found that,

“In appropriate circumstances, I conclude that the relationship between an elderly resident of a retirement home and a personal support worker can also be a fiduciary one”.

Hoyle (Estate) v. Gibson-Heath, 2017 ONSC 4481, is a civil proceeding that was commenced after Ms. Gibson-Heath, a personal support worker, was criminally convicted of stealing $229,000.00 from Clifford Hoyle, an elderly resident of the retirement home where Ms. Gibson-Heath worked.  Ms. Gibson-Heath was sentenced to 18 months of imprisonment and a restitution order was made for her to pay the shortfall between the full amount stolen and any amounts recovered by the Crown.

At the time of the proceeding before Justice Mew, Ms. Gibson-Heath was a discharged bankrupt and the Estate Trustees of the Estate of Clifford Hoyle were seeking an order that the restitution order survives Ms. Gibson-Heath’s bankruptcy and a civil judgment in the amount of the shortfall amongst other relief.  Justice Mew determined that the restitution order survives Ms. Gibson-Heath’s bankruptcy pursuant to section 178(1)(a) of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act but he also went further to consider whether section 178(1)(d) would also apply as it relates to  “any debt or liability arising out of fraud, embezzlement, misappropriation or defalcation while acting in a fiduciary capacity or, in the Province of Quebec, as a trustee or administrator of the property of others”.

Justice Mew’s analysis can be found at paragraphs 16 to 19 of his reasons.  Of note, his Honour commented as follows,

“Ms. Gibson-Heath’s role was to look after Mr. Hoyle.  To act in his best interests.  As an elderly gentleman, who was already in the early stages of dementia when he started to reside at Fairfield Manor East at the end of 2006, Mr. Hoyle was undoubtedly vulnerable to any abuse of the trust that he placed in those who cared for him.”

Ms. Gibson-Heath did not respond to this proceeding and Justice Mew also found that this was an appropriate case for substantial indemnity costs due to Ms. Gibson-Heath’s fraudulent conduct (click here for the costs decision).

Thanks for reading!

Doreen So

#1429918

 

05 Oct

BikeAround: A View Down Memory Lane for Alzheimer’s Patients

Doreen So Capacity, Continuing Legal Education, Elder Law, General Interest, Guardianship, Health / Medical, In the News, Power of Attorney Tags: , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

An Attorney for Personal Care and a Guardian of the Person is statutorily mandated under section 66(3) the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992 (the “SDA“) to make certain decisions in the incapable person’s best interests if the incapable person’s wishes and instructions are unknown or if it is impossible to act in accordance with those wishes and instructions.

A component of the best interests analysis, as set out in section 66(4), includes considering whether the guardian’s decision is likely to,

“i.  improve the quality of the person’s life,

ii.  prevent the quality of the person’s life from deteriorating, or

iii.  reduce the extent to which, or the rate at which, the quality of the person’s life is  likely to deteriorate.”

Given that improving the quality of a person’s life and preventing their quality of life from deteriorating are two sides of the same coin, there is exciting and heart-warming new technology which uses Google Street View to treat Alzheimer’s patients.

This new technology is a prototype called BikeAround.  BikeAround is essentially a stationary bike that stimulates the experience of, literally, biking down memory lane for an Alzheimer’s patient.  The patient is placed on a stationary bike which faces a projection of his/her familiar hometown streets from Google Street View.  The experience is intended to prevent memory loss by bringing to mind locations that are associated with the patient’s memories.  The simultaneous physical stimulation from the act of biking is also considered to be a crucial component of the benefits from this new technology.

Anne-Christine Hertz is the biomechanical engineer who developed BikeAround.

This video on Hertz’s research is not to be missed.

Thanks for reading!

Doreen So

02 Oct

Can you garnish a Henson Trust for child support?

Doreen So Continuing Legal Education, Estate & Trust, Estate Planning, Ethical Issues, Executors and Trustees, General Interest, Trustees, Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , 0 Comments

The answer is no according to Borges v. Santos, 2017 ONCJ 651.

In Borges v. Santos, a garnishment proceeding was commenced by Maria, who was entitled to child support from Antonio.  Maria sought to garnish a trust that was established from the Estate of Antonio’s mother.  Pursuant to the Will of Antonio’s mother, the Trustees were given an absolute and unfettered discretion to pay any part of income or capital for Antonio’s benefit and to keep Antonio’s comfort and well-being in mind in exercising their discretion.  In this case, the Trustees also happened to be Antonio’s brother and sister as well as the gift-over beneficiaries of this Trust such that they will be entitled to all income and capital that were not distributed to Antonio 21 years after their mother’s death.

In one of her arguments, Maria contended that the Trust was not truly discretionary because of the non-arm’s length relationship between the Trustees and Antonio since they were siblings.  The Court in case clarified that Tremblay v. Tremblay, 2016 ONSC 588, “does not stand for the proposition that all familial relationships between trustees and beneficiaries automatically demonstrate that the trust is under the control and hence the property of the beneficiary” for the purposes of the Family Law Act.

Interestingly, Antonio gave evidence in this proceeding that he wanted the Trustees to honour his child support obligations to Maria, although they chose not to comply with his wishes.  Ultimately, as obiter, the Court also asked the Trustees to consider making a distribution to Antonio for his comfort and well-being by supporting his son, Christopher, while acknowledging that he could not order them to do so.

For those of you who are interested in the essential elements of a Henson Trust, click here, for a previous blog on this topic by Ian Hull.

Thanks for reading!

Doreen So

17 Aug

Trial Judge = Gatekeeper: Bruff-Murpy v. Gunawardena

Doreen So Continuing Legal Education, Estate & Trust, General Interest, In the News, Litigation Tags: , , , , , 0 Comments

As part two of my earlier blog on the issue of expert witnesses at trial, Bruff-Murphy v. Gunawardena, 2017 ONCA 502, is a great read for the Court of Appeal’s view on the role of the trial judge during expert testimony.

In the introduction alone, Justice Hourigan was clear that “gone are the days when an expert served as a hired gun or advocate” (para. 1) and that it is the trial judge’s role to act as a gatekeeper so that the expert opinion evidence before the court is “fair, objective and non-partisan” (para. 2).

While my earlier blog focused on the legal test during the qualification stage, Justice Hourigan was also clear that the trial judge does not become functus the moment an expert witness is permitted to give expert opinion evidence.  Rather,

“The trial judge must continue to exercise her gatekeeper function. After all, the concerns about the impact of a non-independent expert witness on the jury have not been eliminated. To the contrary, they have come to fruition. At that stage, when the trial judge recognizes the acute risk to trial fairness, she must take action” (para. 63).”

In this case, Justice Hourigan commented that there were various options available to the trial judge after the qualification stage, which trial counsel should also be aware of as suggestions in their toolkit.  To quote Justice Hourigan at paragraphs 67 and 68 of this decision,

[67]      Given this ongoing gatekeeper discretion, the question remains of what, as a practical matter, the trial judge could or should have done in this case. His first option would have been to advise counsel that he was going to give either a mid-trial or final instruction that Dr. Bail’s testimony would be excluded in whole or in part from the evidence. Had he taken that route, he would have received submissions from counsel in the absence of the jury and proceeded as he saw fit. Alternately, he could have asked for submissions from counsel on a mistrial, again in the absence of the jury, and ruled accordingly. In the event that he had to interrupt Dr. Bail’s testimony mid-trial, he would have had to consider carefully how best to minimize the potential prejudicial effect of the interruption from the respondent’s perspective.

[68]      The point is that the trial judge was not powerless and should have taken action. The dangers of admitting expert evidence suggest a need for a trial judge to exercise prudence in excluding the testimony of an expert who lacks impartiality before those dangers manifest.

Thanks for reading this week!

Doreen So

14 Aug

Qualifying Expert Witnesses: Bruff-Murphy v. Gunawardena

Doreen So Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , 0 Comments

The Court of Appeal recently released a decision on the role of expert witnesses and the role of the trial judge as gatekeepers of such evidence.

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In Bruff-Murphy v. Gunawardena, 2017 ONCA 502, the Court of Appeal considered an appeal from a car accident case. Bruff-Murphy, the appellant, claimed that she suffered physical and mental injuries as a result of a car accident caused by Gunawardena. Gunawardena admitted liability and a 23-day jury trial occurred to determine Bruff-Murphy’s damages. At trial, the jury awarded Bruff-Murphy $23,500.00 in general damages. On appeal, Justices Lauwers, Hourigan, and Benotto overturned the trial decision and ordered a new trial because “the defence proffered the evidence of a wholly unsuitable expert witness” (para. 72).

The expert at issue was a psychiatrist and he was the last witness in the defence’s case. In particular, his expert opinion was that the plaintiff did not develop any psychiatric disorders or limitations as a result of the accident. However, the methodology of his process and the tone of his expert report were found by the Court of Appeal to be more prejudicial than probative. The Court of Appeal was highly critical of how unfair it was for this expert to focus on the inconsistencies between the information that he received from the plaintiff though an interview and the information that he later discovered from reviewing the plaintiff’s medical records without putting these inconsistencies to the plaintiff and giving her the opportunity to explain. The overall tone of the expert report, where the expert went out of his way to make damaging comments to the plaintiff’s case, was also found to be reliable indicator of the expert’s testimony.

While the Court of Appeal appreciated that the trial judge correctly turned his mind to the four traditional criteria for the admissibility of expert evidence as established in R. v. Mohan, the trial judge was found to have erred for failing to weigh the prejudicial effect of this expert’s evidence against it’s probative value as the final step during the qualification stage.

To quote Justice Hourigan at paragraphs 35 and 36 of this decision, the test during the qualification stage is as follows,

[35]      The first component requires the court to consider the four traditional “threshold requirements” for the admissibility of the evidence established in R. v. Mohan1994 CanLII 80 (SCC), [1994] 2 SCR 9: (i) relevance; (ii) necessity in assisting the trier of fact; (iii) absence of an exclusionary rule; and (iv) the need for the expert to be properly qualified.

[36]      The second component is a “discretionary gatekeeping step” where “the judge balances the potential risks and benefits of admitting the evidence in order to decide whether the potential benefits justify the risks”: para. 24. It is a cost-benefit analysis under which the court must determine whether the expert evidence should be admitted because its probative value outweighs its prejudicial effect.

For those who are interested in the topic of admissibility of expert evidence, click here for the Supreme Court of Canada decision in White Burgess Langille Inman v. Abbott and Haliburton Co., 2015 SCC 23.

Thanks for reading and stayed tuned for my blog later this week on the trial judge’s gatekeeper role after the qualification stage.

Doreen So

 

07 Jul

Exclusion of Witnesses from Discoveries

Doreen So Continuing Legal Education, Estate & Trust, Executors and Trustees, General Interest, Litigation, News & Events Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

An Order excluding all the parties from each other’s examinations for discovery was made in an estate matter before the Hon. Justice Myers.  In Boodhoo v. Persaud, the Plaintiff is one of the Deceased’s surviving daughters, while the Defendants are the Deceased’s brother and sister-in-law.  During the initial stages of litigation, the Defendant Uncle was removed as the Estate Trustee of the Boodhoo Estate in 2012 and he was ordered to account for the duration of his administration.  By the time of the present hearing before Justice Myers, the accounting was still deficient.  At the same time, the Plaintiff was also pursuing allegations against her uncle’s wife for her involvement in the administration of the Estate. 

In applying the test for the exclusion of witnesses in Lazar v. TD General Insurance Company, 2017 ONSC 1242, Justice Myers found that “all of the parties have cause to be worried that others will tailor their evidence based upon what they hear at examinations for discovery”.   Where the credibility of the parties appears to be crucial, especially in the absence of documentary records, his Honour ordered that:

“Counsel for the parties and anyone who attends discoveries with them shall not disclose any evidence given by a party on examination for discovery to any other party in advance of the completion of all of their respective examinations by answering all undertakings and refusals (if any). Nor shall any counsel or their staff provide any transcripts or summaries of transcripts of any of the examinations for discovery to any of the parties prior to the completion of all of their respective examinations by answering all undertakings and refusals (if any).”

Thanks for reading!

Doreen So

06 Jul

Billing Physician Assisted Deaths

Doreen So Ethical Issues, General Interest, Health / Medical, In the News, News & Events Tags: , , , , , , , 0 Comments

I have blogged about assisted suicide in the past with reference to the Canadian television show Mary Kills People.  The availability of assisted suicide continues to be a subject of public interest as each province deals with the implementation of the outcome of Supreme Court of Canada decision in Carter v. Canada (Attorney General).

As reported by The Globe and Mail, one particular doctor has removed himself from a roster of doctors who will administer assisted deaths because of changes to the physician fee schedule in British Columbia.  Notwithstanding his support for assisted death, Dr. Jesse Pewarchuk of Vancouver Island wrote a letter to his colleagues to explain that the new fee schedule made “medical assistance in dying” economically untenable for his practice.

According to Kelly Grant of the Globe and Mail,

“Under the new fee schedule, B.C. physicians will now be paid $40 for every 15 minutes, up to a maximum of 90 minutes, to conduct the first of two eligibility assessments required by law. Each of the assessments has to be provided by a different clinician. That works out to $240, a significant increase from the $100.25 interim assessment fee that has been in place in B.C. since shortly after assisted death became legal.

For second assessments, the time is capped at 75 minutes.

In the case of providing an assisted death, the province has set a flat fee of $200, plus a home-visit fee of $113.15.”

Within the same article, it was reported that Ontario does not have specific billing codes for this type of medical service at this present time.

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks for reading.

Doreen So

26 May

When does the limitation period run when the PGT is statutory guardian?

Doreen So Capacity, Continuing Legal Education, Elder Law, Estate & Trust, Executors and Trustees, General Interest, In the News, Litigation, News & Events, Power of Attorney Tags: , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

The applicability of limitation periods to estates, trusts, and capacity matters is crucial for litigators to consider.  In a recent decision of the Superior Court of Justice, the Court was asked to consider the application of the limitation period in Part V of the Succession Law Reform Act (“SLRA”) to a claim that was advanced by the Public Guardian and Trustee (the “PGT”) as the litigation guardian of an incapable support claimant.

Shaw v. Barber, 2017 ONSC 2155, is an important precedent for the proposition that limitation periods do not run against the incapable person from the day that the PGT becomes his/her statutory guardian of property.  By operation of section 16(5) of the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992, the PGT automatically becomes an incapable person’s statutory guardian of property the moment they receive a certificate of incapacity from the assessor.  In Shaw v. Barber, the dependant support claimant, Lois Shaw, was assessed and found to be incapable of managing property on February 16, 2015 and a copy of the certificate was sent to the PGT on or about February 25, 2015.

Prior to the assessment, Ms. Shaw lived with Frank Cyril Barber on the date of his death, although they were not married.  Mr. Barber died in August, 2014, leaving a Will which named his son as the sole Estate Trustee and beneficiary of his Estate.  A Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee with a Will was issued to Mr. Barber’s son on February 5, 2015.  Pursuant to section 61(1) of the SLRA, an application for dependant support may not be made six months after the grant of probate, subject to the Court’s discretion in section 61(2) to allow claims against the undistributed portion of an estate.  Without considering the Court’s discretion in section 61(2) of the Act, Justice McNamara found that Ms. Shaw’s claim for dependant support was not statute barred despite the fact that it was issued, one year after six months from probate, on August 5, 2016.

In his reasoning, Justice McNamara considered the tolling provision applicable to incapable persons while he/she is not represented by a litigation guardian in section 7 of the Limitations Act, 2002 (which applies to the section 61 of the SLRA).  The turning point then becomes whether a guardian of property is automatically a litigation guardian in relation to the claim at issue since a guardian has the power to do anything the incapable person may do except make a will.  In this case, there was an affidavit from PGT counsel which explained the time consuming investigations involved when the PGT becomes a statutory guardian of property because of the lack of first-hand information from the incapable individual.  Justice McNamara determined that a guardian of property shall act as litigation guardian when he/she has determined that there is a basis for exercising their authority in that role, and that imposing a limitation period from the date in which the PGT becomes statutory guardian is contrary to the Limitations Act and it would create impossible timelines and potential injustice for this vulnerable group.  Furthermore, Justice McNamara was also persuaded by the fact that the Estate Trustee in this case will not be prejudiced by the delay, given that he is also the sole beneficiary, and that he was aware all along that the PGT was considering a claim against the Estate.

This case is also an example of the latitude that Courts may accord to large-scale claimants as seen in 407 ETR Concession Company Limited v. Day, 2016 ONCA 709.

Please do not hesitate to contact our firm for a copy of Justice McNamara’s reasons in Shaw v. Barber and click here for comments from Russel Molot, counsel for the PGT in this matter, as reported in the Law Times.

Doreen So

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