This Week At The SCC

Cases Heard

The Supreme Court of Canada heard arguments this week in two cases of interest to Canadian businesses and professions, and reserved judgment in each.

The first is an appeal from Newfoundland (Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Commission) v. Ryan Estate, 2011 NLCA 42. It involves whether s. 6 of the federal Maritime Liability Act can authorize a civil action in respect of a workplace accident, even though s. 44 of the Newfoundland & Labrador Workplace Health, Safety and Compensation Act purports to bar such claims in favour of a no-fault compensation scheme. The Newfoundland & Labrador Court of Appeal held that that provincial statute was constitutionally inapplicable and inoperative by virtue of the doctrines of interjurisdictional immunity and paramountcy, and thus could not preclude the plaintiffs' maritime negligence claims from proceeding under the federal enactment. We discussed the Ryan case in a previous post. The oral arguments before the Court may be viewed here, and the written arguments may be viewed here.

The second case involves an appeal from Rascal Trucking Ltd. v. Nishi, 2011 BCCA 348, in which the B.C. Court of Appeal held that a plaintiff who contributed money to the defendant's acquisition of property, without itself acquiring legal title, was entitled to a purchase-money resulting trust over an interest in the property proportionate to its monetary contribution. The defendant argued that the plaintiff's monetary contribution was not made for the purpose of enabling the plaintiff to acquire the property, but rather to satisfy the defendant's liability for a municipal tax debt in respect of the property that had been paid by the vendor, a bank which acquired the property through foreclosure proceedings. The municipal tax debt arose out of an unfulfilled order that the plaintiff, who was the lessor of the property prior to the foreclosure, remove topsoil from it whcih created a nuisance. Thus, the defendant argued that the plaintiff's monetary contribution was made for the purpose of satisfying a legal obligation to a third party (the owner of the property prior to the foreclosure), thereby precluding it from giving rise to a claim for unjust enrichment. The question for the Court is whether the resulting trust still has a role to play in resolving non-domestic disputes that is independent of the doctrine of unjust enrichment, or whether it has been superseded by the latter head of liability. We...

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