When Will Ontario Courts Assume Jurisdiction Over Out-of-Province Defendants?

A 5-member panel of the Ontario Court of Appeal released a significant, 150-paragraph reasoned decision this morning involving conflicts of laws and when Ontario should take jurisdiction over out-of-province defendants – see:

Van Breda v. Village Resorts Limited, 2010 ONCA 84

At issue were claims for personal injury damages occasioned as a result of accidents suffered by Canadian tourists at resorts in Cuba and whether the plaintiffs could sue in Ontario.

In paragraph 109 (pasted below) the Court has “re-formulated” their own test in Muscutt from 2002.

[109] To summarize the preceding discussion, in my view, the Muscutt test should be clarified and reformulated as follows:

– First, the court should determine whether the claim falls under rule 17.02 (excepting subrules (h) and (o)) to determine whether a real and substantial connection with Ontario is presumed to exist. The presence or absence of a presumption will frame the second stage of the analysis. If one of the connections identified in rule 17.02 (excepting subrules (h) and (o)) is made out, the defendant bears the burden of showing that a real and substantial connection does not exist. If one of those connections is not made out, the burden falls on the plaintiff to demonstrate that, in the particular circumstances of the case, the real and substantial connection test is met.

– At the second stage, the core of the analysis rests upon the connection between Ontario and the plaintiff’s claim and the defendant, respectively.

– The remaining considerations should not be treated as independent factors having more or less equal weight when determining whether there is a real and substantial connection but as general legal principles that bear upon the analysis.

– Consideration of the fairness of assuming or refusing jurisdiction is a necessary tool in assessing the strengths of the connections between the forum and the plaintiff’s claim and the defendant. However, fairness is not a free-standing factor capable of trumping weak connections, subject only to the forum of necessity exception.

– Consideration of jurisdiction simpliciter and the real and substantial connection test should not anticipate, incorporate or replicate consideration of the matters that pertain to forum non conveniens test.

– The involvement of other parties to the suit is only relevant in cases where that is asserted as a possible connecting factor and in relation to avoiding a multiplicity of proceedings under forum non conveniens.

– The willingness to recognize and enforce an extra-provincial judgment rendered on the same jurisdictional basis is as an overarching principle that disciplines the exercise of jurisdiction against extra-provincial defendants. This principle provides perspective and is intended to prevent a judicial tendency to overreach to assume jurisdiction when the plaintiff is an Ontario resident. If the court would not be prepared to recognize and enforce an extra-provincial judgment against an Ontario defendant rendered on the same jurisdictional basis, it should not assume jurisdiction against the extra-provincial defendant.

– Whether the case is interprovincial or international in nature, and comity and the standards of jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement prevailing elsewhere are relevant considerations, not as independent factors having more or less equal weight with the others, but as general principles of private international law that bear upon the interpretation and application of the real and substantial connection test.

– The factors to be considered for jurisdiction simpliciter are different and distinct from those to be considered for forum non conveniens. The forum non conveniens factors have no bearing on real and substantial connection and, therefore, should only be considered after it has been determined that there is a real and substantial connection and that jurisdiction simpliciter has been established.

– Where there is no other forum in which the plaintiff can reasonably seek relief, there is a residual discretion to assume jurisdiction.

I have not had time to review the reasons in detail but invite any comments (and will add my own comments later, if needed).

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