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Featured Case: Victoria Mendes et al. v. Blaisdale Montessori School

Martin Smith
Martin Smith,
Partner

In Mendes v Blaisdale Montessori School,1 the defendant, represented by Martin Smith, the managing partner of McCague Borlack's Ottawa office, successfully brought a summary judgment motion against the plaintiff, dismissing the claim in its entirety. The case was further dismissed on appeal.2 This case highlights the recently expanded fact-finding powers for judges given within Rule 20.04(2.1) of the Rules of Civil Procedure and emphasizes the importance of providing diligent advocacy in spurious claims.

Background

This case concerns a four-year-old preschooler that was expelled from Blaisdale Montessori School for repeated misbehaviour. The mother of the child sued the school for breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty.

Ontario Superior Court of Justice Decision

On motion for summary judgment, the Honourable Mr. Justice Myers dismissed the plaintiff's claims in their entirety as they were outside the requisite limitation period or not supported by the evidence. Notably, Justice Myers criticized the plaintiff for not putting “her best foot forward”3 and for the scant evidence submitted in support of the motion. Moreover, his Honour noted that the plaintiff submitted no authorities that described the scope and nature of the fiduciary duties alleged. Using the enhanced powers as given in Hryniak v Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7, Justice Myers made the following findings:4

  1. That the entitlement to attend the school was contractual;
  2. The plaintiff did not deny the misbehaviour of the child;
  3. That the allegations that other students misbehaved at the school is irrelevant;
  4. The mother was unwilling to cooperate; and,
  5. There was no factual basis for a fiduciary duty between the school and the minor plaintiff.

The claim was, therefore, dismissed under Rule 20.04 for lacking any genuine issue for trial.

Justice Myers ruled that the plaintiff had not adduced any credible evidence to support any fiduciary duty or evidence of any damages sustained by the minor plaintiff. The claim was, therefore, dismissed under Rule 20.04 for lacking any genuine issue for trial.

Ontario Court of Appeal Decision

Being unhappy with the result, the plaintiff appealed this ruling to the Ontario Court of Appeal. The plaintiff argued that the Justice was misdirected in the expanded fact-finding powers as held in Hryniak. Nevertheless, the court agreed with the arguments put forward by the defendant and found no basis to disturb the decision. Specifically, the court held that the new fact-finding powers attract deference and they were not satisfied “in deciding to exercise those powers the motion judge misdirected himself or came to a decision that is so clearly wrong that it resulted in an injustice.”5

Conclusion

This case highlights the significant deference given to trial judges with respect to the expanded fact-finding powers in Rule 20. It demonstrates that a court will not look lightly on cases where scant evidence is submitted on a summary judgement motion. Finally, it establishes the usefulness of summary judgement motions to save time and money when dealing with spurious claims.


1 2014 ONSC 3178.
2 2014 ONCA 821 [Mendes].
3 Pizza Pizza v Gillespie (1990), 75 OR (2d) 226 (Gen. Div).
4 Hryniak v Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7, [2014] 1 SCR 87.
5 Mendes supra note 2 at para 3.


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