Commercial Litigation


We believe it is as important to prevent lawsuits as it is to settle them. That is why our commercial litigation team is prepared to take the appropriate actions at every step of the process, whether legal proceedings are planned or not. By combining their extensive litigation experience with the know-how of their network of professionals, they will easily meet your highest expectations.

Whether you are a major corporation or an SME in the manufacturing, financial services, real estate, distribution, or new economy sectors, you will find the answers you seek. Lavery’s expertise in this field is recommended by the Canadian Legal LEXPERT Directory.


  • Dispute prevention and resolution, including breach of contract
  • Restraint of trade
  • Breach of confidentiality
  • Unfair competition
  • Shareholder disputes
  • Commercial leases
  • Securities
  • Intellectual property
  • Trademark enforcement and compliance
  • Product liability
  • Banking litigation, commercial paper, bills of exchange, security, realizing on security, and other financial transactions
  • Collection
  • Libel, slander and defamation
  • Real estate litigation
  • Consumer protection

Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory

  1. An insurer ordered to pay damages – The Court of Appeal intervenes

    On February 12, 2024, the Court of Appeal of Quebec handed down its decision in Société d’assurance Beneva inc. c. Bordeleau,1 dealing in particular with the burden of proof incumbent on an insurer when it denies coverage on the basis of an insured’s intentional fault, and an award of damages against an insurer for breach of its duty of good faith. The facts This decision was rendered further to a dispute between Société d’assurance Beneva inc. (hereinafter the “Insurer") and some of its insureds, including Mr. Michel Bordeleau, the owner of a multi-storey rental building that was damaged by fire. He lived in one of the units with his parents. According to the uncontested expert evidence presented, the fire originated in one of the storage spaces in the basement of the building, which was assigned to a lessee couple. Access to the basement and all storage spaces was locked. The cause of the fire was deemed to be intentional, given the traces of accelerant found in the area of the fire’s origin. The instigator or instigators were not identified. On November 21, 2016, 60 days after the fire, the Insurer denied coverage because of the intentional nature of the fire, which it attributed to its insured, Mr. Bordeleau. A few months later, on March 22, 2017, it reached an agreement with Mr. Bordeleau’s hypothecary creditor. The subrogation release provides for the Insurer’s payment of the balance of the hypothecary debt of $149,720.99, and subrogation to the creditor’s rights up to the amount paid. Mr. Bordeleau, in his belief that he had been harmed by the Insurer’s decision, instituted legal proceedings to recover the insurance benefit to which he claimed to be entitled, while also claiming damages. The Insurer filed a cross-application for recovery of the balance paid to the hypothecary creditor. The trial The trial judge, relying on the evidence, concluded that although the fire was intentional in nature, the Insurer had not discharged its burden of establishing the insured’s involvement in the fire. Taking this conclusion into account, she then proceeded to analyze the plaintiffs’ claim and to weigh the damages in light of the evidence and the limits of the insurance policy. In particular, she ruled in favour of Mr. Bordeleau’s claim for damages for the building, the amount of which was admitted. In addition, she ordered the Insurer to pay $15,000.00 in damages for nuisance and inconvenience caused by its conduct, which she considered faulty. This conclusion was based on the Insurer’s duty to act in good faith, to consider the facts and act on their basis, and to conduct a full investigation, duty which the Insurer had breached by failing to sufficiently follow-up on leads that could have identified who was responsible for the fire. In order to deny coverage, clear and compelling evidence of the insured’s involvement, going beyond mere suspicion, was necessary. Given the sometimes implausible and sometimes contradictory testimonies of the people met during the investigation, there was no such evidence. In other words, the claims adjuster had jumped to conclusions. In light of her conclusions, the trial judge dismissed the Insurer’s cross-application, which she deemed to be unfounded, without giving further reasons. The appeal The Court of Appeal first refrained from intervening in light of the Superior Court’s conclusions regarding the failure to demonstrate Mr. Bordeleau’s involvement in the fire. It did however intervene on the damages awarded for nuisance and inconvenience suffered by the insureds, and pointed out the following: [40] [translation] Firstly, apart from the strict mathematical calculation of the amounts payable, and perhaps other technical aspects not requiring the exercise of judgment, the processing of a claim is an obligation of means, not one of result. The fact that a court found at the end of a trial held many years after the incident that an insurer should have covered in the first place obviously does not mean that the insurer necessarily committed a fault other than its refusal to pay, making it civilly liable, let alone that it acted in bad faith. [41] In this case, there was nothing in the evidence to support a finding of fault or breach of the duty of good faith. [42] On the contrary, there is enough evidence to conclude that the investigation by the appellant and its experts, which led to the denial of coverage, was not botched. . . . In the opinion of the Court of Appeal, the evidence showed that the Insurer’s investigation had been done in a conscientious manner, in particular because it had transferred the claim file to a special investigative unit, mandated a fire origin and cause expert and external investigators, and interviewed many witnesses who could have provided information on the circumstances of the incident. Moreover, it had no allegations that the Insurer had failed to consider exculpatory evidence against its insured. In this context, although it took several years for the insured to obtain his due, with all the inconveniences of going through proceedings, the Insurer’s conduct could not be considered offending or revealing of bad faith. No damages could be awarded. Lastly, the Court of Appeal took a closer look at the question of the Insurer’s subrogation to the hypothecary creditor’s rights, which was little discussed in the judgment under appeal. Reiterating the fundamental principle in property and casualty insurance that the indemnification of an insured cannot result in enrichment, the Court of Appeal concluded that dismissing the Insurer’s cross-application would have such an effect. In addition to receiving an insurance benefit for the damages sustained, Mr. Bordeleau would also have had seen his hypothecary debt discharged. This would have given him a clear advantage. In this case, the benefit paid to the hypothecary creditor needed to be deducted from the damages claimed by the insured. The trial judge’s finding were thus revised accordingly. Conclusion Despite the clear principles addressed in this case, the Court of Appeal’s analysis points to practical difficulties that insureds and insurers can encounter when dealing with similar claims. It points to the coexistence of two factors that can be difficult to balance: First, the burden of proof where coverage is denied on the basis of the insured's intentional fault, and second, the insurer’s obligation of means in processing the associated claim. The dismissal of a coverage defence does not in itself warrant awarding damages. Société d’assurance Beneva inc. c. Bordeleau, 2024 QCCA 171

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  2. Class actions to watch in 2024

    Quebec is a fertile ground for class actions, with over 550 active cases and between 50 to 100 applications for authorization filed each year. While 2023 marked the fifth anniversary of the “new” class action division: what is there to watch in 2024? Read on to find out. Opioids and the State: Sanis Health v. British Columbia Can a state be a plaintiff to a class action? Can it be the plaintiff to a class action in another state? Can it be a class member in another state? In 2018, British Columbia adopted the Opioid Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act1 [ORA] allowing the government to institute class action proceedings regarding “opioid-related wrongs.” This was modelled after an earlier legislation targeting “tobacco-related wrongs,”2 the constitutionality of which had been upheld by the Supreme Court.3 The ORA, however, allowed not only British Columbia to institute such proceedings, but also, provided it had commenced such an action, to bring it forward “on behalf of a class consisting of one or more of the governments of Canada and the provinces or territories of Canada.”4 The constitutionality of this provision was challenged, without success in the first instance5 and on appeal.6 Though the Court of Appeal upheld the validity of the provision, it did characterize it as “a bold step, if not an experiment, in bringing government-led class litigation as close as possible to truly “national” proceedings in Canada’s federal structure.”7 This boldness snowballed: Similar laws have been adopted throughout Canada.8 Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court of Canada has granted leave.9 A hearing should be scheduled in 2024. Relatedly, in Quebec, the parties are awaiting judgment on an application for authorization to institute a class action against several pharmaceutical companies10 relating to the manufacturing, marketing, distribution and sale of opioids. In this case, the plaintiff is seeking to represent all persons in Quebec who suffer, or has suffered, from opioid use disorder following the use of prescription opioids since 1996. It is now settled law that one person may sue several defendants in a single action regarding an allegedly common practice even if that person does not have a direct cause of action against each defendant, provided that the proposed representative is otherwise able to adequately represent the members who do.11 It remains to be seen whether the representative plaintiff put forward in this case will be able to fulfill his role against approximately 20 companies having marketed more than 150 different products over more than 25 years. Jurisdiction over foreign defendants Are allegations sufficient to establish the jurisdiction of Quebec authorities over foreign defendants that are distinct from their Quebec subsidiaries?12 And if so, how should the geographical limits of the putative class members be defined? In the Bourgeois case, the proposed representative, a Quebec resident, is seeking authorization to institute a class action against several companies that develop and market video games with a “loot box” mechanism, which he claims constitutes a form of illegal gaming. Putative class members are not limited to Quebec residents such as himself. Moreover, many of the respondents are foreign companies, and some have no establishment in Quebec. Some of these foreign entities filed a declinatory exception, which the court dismissed. An appeal was filed, which includes arguments that the dismissal of the declinatory exception unduly broadened the definition of “establishment” within the meaning of article 3148 C.C.Q. Will the Court of Appeal give guidelines for determining whether such an issue should be addressed at the authorization stage? We should know soon as the Court of Appeal is expected to render judgment on this matter within the coming months. The appeal was heard on February 2, 2024. In 2023, the Quebec Court of Appeal had closed the door on the use of the guiding principles of procedure to broaden the scope of its jurisdiction.13 Earlier in the year, the British Columbia Court of Appeal had ruled that it had no jurisdiction over a class action relating to misrepresentations made outside its territory for lack of a “real and substantial connection”,14 and the Ontario Superior Court had followed suit.15 Clearly, class action law and private international law continue to cross paths, if not swords. More than 10 years later16 The majority of class actions are settled before they reach the merits. The same cannot be said for the case involving the Lac-Mégantic tragedy, in which the Court of Appeal is slated to hear the case on liability of certain defendant this year. On July 6, 2013, at 1:14 a.m., downtown Lac-Mégantic was set ablaze after a tank car train derailed. Images of the derailment were broadcast around the world. A class action ensued, filed on July 15, 2013. Authorized on June 8, 2015,17 it was joined with two civil suits, one instituted by the Attorney General of Québec [translation] “for all of the damages suffered by the Quebec State as a result of the tragedy,” estimated at over $231,000,000, and the other by a group of insurers.18 These proceedings were also split in order to first address the liability of the defendants Montreal, Maine & Atlantic [MMA] and Canadian Pacific [CP].19 On December 14, 2022, after a 63-day trial, spanning nine months, the Superior Court did not hold CP liable for the derailment, finding only MMA liable.20 Appeals were filed by both sides in January 2023, suspending the continuation of the trial for the remainder of the case.21 As the appeal materials were filed in the fall of 2023, there should be a hearing in 2024. Class counsel or representative’s counsel?22 Are the lawyers of the representative also those of the class? A trial judgment suggests that they should be considered so if it is in the interest of the class. The Court of Appeal will be ruling on this issue. The Court of Appeal may be called on to rule on this recurrent point of contention between lawyers who act mainly for the plaintiffs and those who act mainly for the defendants: does class counsel have a direct relationship with the members of the class, or is their legal relationship thereto contingent on the relationship they have with the representative? Labour law in Canada’s major junior hockey leagues gives the case its backdrop. Around 2020, the parties to three certified class actions, one in Alberta, one in Ontario and one in Quebec,23 agreed to a settlement that included a release. The scope of said release was the stumbling block—the three courts involved refused to approve the transaction and sent the parties back to the drawing board.24 A new release under the same agreement was drawn up in 2023. It was signed by the two representatives of the Quebec class, Lukas Walter and Thomas Gobeil, on May 9 and June 5, 2023. A date was then set for approval. In a surprising turn of events, on June 14, 2023, Walter and Gobeil informed their lawyers that they no longer agreed to the amended transaction, and notices of revocation of mandate were sent out a few days before the scheduled hearing date. Class counsel, claiming the need to safeguard the interests of the class members, asked the Court to reject the notices of revocation.25 The text of article 576 C.C.P. is unequivocal: the court appoints the representative. It is also clear from case law that it is the representative plaintiff who mandates counsel, not the reverse.26 Because the representative plaintiff is entitled to the counsel of his or her choice, like any other litigant, Walter and Gobeil were in principle entitled to revoke the mandates of their lawyers, even though said lawyers had been involved from the outset of the case. The matter complexifies when one considers the interests of the class members, as the trial judge writes: [translation] “Who will act in the case and whom will they be representing?”27 Possibly to assuage both sides, she acknowledged the revocation of mandate, but confirmed that the lawyers would continue to represent the class, stating that they [translation] “must uphold their duty to represent the class and present the terms of the settlement agreement as amended for approval.”28 In other words, she considered that class counsel had a direct relationship with the class. Needless to say, the case was appealed. The hearing on leave to appeal took place on February 29, 2024. Price higher than advertised: where’s the harm? What burden is imposed on plaintiffs who wish to institute proceedings under section 224(c) of the Consumer Protection Act, prohibiting the practice of hidden charges or drip pricing? A trial judgment states that the mere finding of a prohibited practice is not sufficient to prove actual harm. For the first time in reported case law, the Court of Appeal will consider a judgment on the merits dealing with the application of article 224(c) of the Consumer Protection Act. In this case, Union des consommateurs claims that Air Canada, during the first stage of an online ticket purchase process, failed to indicate the amount of taxes, fees, charges and surcharges included in the final price charged, thereby violating applicable legislation. Union des consommateurs is seeking a reduction in the price paid by members of the class corresponding to the sum of the charges, as well as punitive damages of $10 million. The Superior Court found that Air Canada had indeed advertised a price lower than that ultimately charged to class members. This finding of fault, however, did not relieve the plaintiff of the burden of proving actual harm. Because Air Canada demonstrated that there were clearly visible warnings that the advertised prices did not include all of the fees charged, the Court concluded that the prohibited practice was not likely to influence the formation of the contract.29 Since no harm has been demonstrated, no compensatory damages were awarded. As for punitive damages, the evidence did not show that Air Canada had engaged in “conduct […] which display[ed] ignorance, carelessness or serious negligence”. Moreover, Air Canada had ceased engaging in the contentious practice before the class action was authorized. The appeal was lodged on December 28, 2022, and should be heard this year. The upcoming decision will have a significant impact on a number of ongoing class actions under section 224(c) CPA. The decision will certainly shed some interesting light on the required proof of actual harm and the impact of the prohibited practice on consumers’ purchasing decisions. Devaluation of taxi licenses Will the Superior Court find that by adopting the Act respecting remunerated passenger transportation by automobile,30 the Quebec government expropriated taxi owners without paying fair and reasonable compensation? From April 1 to 24, 2024, the Superior Court will hear a class action on the revenue decline in the taxi industry attributed to the arrival of Uber, an online transportation platform having transformed the urban travel landscape by connecting users with independent drivers via a mobile app. The class action was authorized in 2018.31 The representative, who holds a taxi license, represents a group of taxi drivers and owners. He alleges that his loss of income and the depreciation in the value of his permits were caused by the legislator’s authorization of Uber’s business activities. He argues that the exemption provided to Uber by the law relative to taxi permit fees and the non-regulation of fares for its drivers have enabled Uber to charge far lower fares than those that regulated taxi operators charge. In this case, it will be interesting to see whether the Superior Court will apply the foundations of expropriation law to the class, which establish that no expropriation can take place without compensation for property rights. Member participation and class counsel’s fee to impose conditions relating to class counsel’s fees Can the Court make the full payment of the plaintiff’s lawyer fees contingent on achieving a certain level of participation of members of the class, even though it has already held that the fees agreed to in the settlement agreement were reasonable? Following the authorization of a class action on the false or misleading use of the word “champagne” by an airline that rather served a sparkling wine,32 the parties agreed to a settlement awarding the class members a 7% discount on their next purchase to be made within the next three years, without any restrictions. The settlement also provided for the payment of $1,500,000 to the class counsel, the reimbursement of expert fees and an envelope of up to $20,000 to maximize the settlement’s visibility on social media, without affecting the 7% compensation offered to members. The judgment approving the settlement authorizes the immediate payment of $751,450 to class counsel but makes payment of the balance conditional on achieving a participation rate of 50% of members, or 469,398 claims.33 The plaintiff applied for and obtained leave to appeal the decision.34 He also applied for the revocation, rectification and clarification of the judgment, in particular on the grounds that, under article 593 C.C.P., final payment of professional fees cannot be made conditional on achieving a recovery rate, and that the 50% rate is excessive. Only the second ground of the application was allowed, and the 50% participation rate was reduced to 10%, or 93,880 claims.35 The plaintiff has appealed this second decision. The judgment granting him leave to do so has been joined to the two appeals,36 and the factums are slated to be submitted in 2024. A number of decisions have already suggested that there needs to be a correlation between the professional fees of class counsel and participation of members in the benefits negotiated for them.37 The Court of Appeal’s upcoming ruling is certain to have significant implications on future settlements, and it will provide an interesting perspective on the discretionary power of trial judges to impose conditions relating to plaintiffs’ lawyers’ fees. Greenwashing: can a class action help the environment? Will the Superior Court authorize a class action on a misrepresentation that certain bags are recyclable?38 Does consumer law provide an entry for asking the courts to address environmental concerns? In recent years, many businesses have adopted environmental, social and governance practices (better known by the acronym ESG), often specifically performance criteria in these areas. However, some observers question the sincerity of these actions and sometimes consider them to be public relations schemes rather than genuine efforts on the part of businesses to reduce their environmental footprint or improve their social impact. This context will make it interesting to follow the progress of a class action on misleading representations concerning bags, which a number of superstores present as “recyclable,” when in fact they are only reusable as they are discarded by recycling plants in Quebec. If this class action is authorized, it could pave the way for further similar actions. Businesses that have adopted ESG practices and have made their commitment public should pay attention to the outcome of this case. SBC 2018, c 35. Tobacco Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, SBC 2000, c. 30. British Columbia v. Imperial Tobacco Ltd, 2005 SCC 49. Sandoz Canada Inc. v. British Columbia, 2023 BCCA 306, para. 2. British Columbia v. Apotex Inc., 2022 BCSC 2147. Sandoz Canada Inc. v. British Columbia, 2023 BCCA 306. Sandoz Canada Inc. v. British Columbia, 2023 BCCA 306, para. 3. Québec being the last one with the Opioid-related Damages and Health Care Costs Recovery Act, SQ 2023, c 25, having been assented to and having come into force on November 2, 2023. Sanis Health Inc. v. British Columbia, SCC 40864 (November 9, 2023). Of the initial thirty-four defendants, a certain number agreed to settle out of court. Lavery, de Billy represents one of these defendants. Bank of Montreal v. Marcotte, 2014 SCC 55, para. 43. Bourgeois c. Electronics Arts Inc., 2023 QCCS 1011, leave to appeal granted: Electronics Arts Inc. c. Bourgeois, 2023 QCCA 826, only judge. Otsuka Pharmaceutical Company Limited c. Pohoresky, 2022 QCCA 1230, leave to appeal denied: SCC 40452 (May 25, 2023). Hershey Company v. Leaf, 2023 BCCA 264. Gebien v. Apotex Inc., 2023 ONSC 6792. Lavery, de Billy represented one of the defendants between 2013 and 2016. Ouellet c. Rail World inc., 2015 QCCS 2002, amended by Ouellet c. Canadian Pacific Railway Company, 2016 QCCS 5087. Ouellet c. Compagnie de chemin de fer Canadien Pacifique, 2017 QCCS 5674. Two other civil cases were suspended in the wake of these three cases, one by the same judgment, the other by 9020-1468 Québec inc. c. Canadian Pacific Railway Company, 2019 QCCS 366. Ouellet c. Compagnie de chemin de fer Canadien Pacifique, 2017 QCCS 5674. Ouellet c. Compagnie de chemin de fer Canadien Pacifique, 2022 QCCS 4643. Since June 30, 2023 article 211 C.C.P. prohibits the immediate appeal of a judgment rendered in a split proceeding that does not terminate the proceeding; there was therefore no reason to consider the consequences of possible asymmetry in res judicata in the case of a judgment that only partially puts an end to such a proceeding. Walter c. Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Inc., 2023 QCCS 3655. Walter v. Western Hockey league, 2017 ABQB 382; Berg v. Canadian Hockey League, 2017 ONSC 2608 and Walter c. Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Inc., 2019 QCCS 2334. Walter c. Western Hockey League, 2020 ABQB 631; Berg v. Canadian Hockey League, 2020 ONSC 6389 and Walter c. Ligue de hockey junior majeur du Québec Inc. 2020 QCCS 3724. Walter c. Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Inc., 2023 QCCS 3655, para. 13. Deraspe c. Zinc électrolytique du Canada ltée, 2018 QCCA 256, paras. 38 et s. Walter c. Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Inc., 2023 QCCS 3655, para. 23. Walter c. Quebec Major Junior Hockey League Inc., 2023 QCCS 3655, para. 24. Union des consommateurs c. Air Canada, 2022 QCCS 4254, para. 113, quoting to Richard v. Time Inc., 2012 SCC 8, para. 125. Act respecting remunerated passenger transportation by automobile, CQLR c. T-11.2. Metellus c. Procureure générale du Québec, 2018 QCCS 4626. Macduff c. Vacances Sunwing inc., 2018 QCCS 1510. MacDuff c. Vacances Sunwing inc., 2023 QCCS 343. MacDuff c. Vacances Sunwing inc.,2023 QCCA 476, only judge. MacDuff c. Vacances Sunwing inc., 2023 QCCS 4125. MacDuff c. Vacances Sunwing inc., 2024 QCCA 61, only judge. E.g., Daunais c. Honda Canada inc., 2022 QCCS 2485, paras. 132–133. Cohen c. Dollarama et al., SC 500-06-001200-225.

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  3. Bill 8: Amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure to improve access to justice

    Introduction On February 1, 2023, Minister of Justice Simon Jolin-Barrette introduced and tabled in the National Assembly Bill 8 entitled An Act to improve justice efficiency and accessibility, in particular by promoting mediation and arbitration and by simplifying civil procedure in the Court of Québec1 (hereinafter the “Bill”). The Bill makes amendments to several laws, including the Courts of Justice Act2 and the Professional Code3. We are particularly interested in those relating to the Code of Civil Procedure (“C.C.P.”),4 and more specifically to proceedings pending before the Court of Québec of which practitioners and persons subject to trial will want to take note. Proposed Amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure Most of the amendments to the C.C.P. will come into effect on June 30, 20235. We note the following, in particular: Jurisdiction of the Court  Exclusive jurisdiction granted to the Court of Québec to hear applications in which the amount claimed or the value of the subject matter of the dispute is less than $75,000,6 instead of $85,000, which is the limit in effect on the date of this bulletin. However, the Court of Québec will continue to hear applications under the $85,000 limit that were filed prior to June 30, 2023, and these will remain governed by the provisions of the C.C.P., as they read before June 30, 2023;7 Concurrent jurisdiction with that of the Superior Court granted to the Court of Québec where the amount claimed or the value of the subject matter of the dispute is equal to or exceeds $75,000 but is less than $100,000.8 Case management The Bill also introduces a special procedure for applications in civil matters brought before the Court of Québec in which the amount claimed or the value of the subject matter of the dispute is less than $100,000:9 The preparation of a case protocol will no longer be necessary, as set time limits will now apply to all recourses;10 Originating applications must not exceed five pages in length;11 Preliminary exceptions must be disclosed within 45 days of filing an application;12 A defendant’s arguments must be disclosed within 95 days of filing an application;13 Settlement conferences will be held automatically after trial readiness is achieved (settlement conferences may also be replaced by pre-trial conferences);14 Cases will be set down for trial and judgment by a court clerk.15 Requests for particulars as to allegations made or to strike immaterial allegations The Court of Québec will only authorize such requests by way of exception and if warranted on serious grounds.16 Examinations The limit below which holding an oral examination on discovery is not permitted will be increased to $50,000.17 Currently, the limit is $30,000; Each party will be entitled to only a single oral examination on discovery, unless the Court decides otherwise;18 Written examinations must not exceed three pages in length.19 Expert opinion Parties must seek a joint expert opinion in cases where the amount claimed or the value of the property claimed is equal to or less than $50,000, unless the Court decides otherwise.20 Small claims With the parties’ consent, the Court may render judgment on the face of the record when the matter concerns the recovery of a claim of $15,000 or less.21 Adjustments Each of the monetary limits for the Court of Québec’s jurisdiction will be adjusted annually.22 Conclusion The proposed measures will significantly impact how lawyers will now handle and manage disputes in which the amount claimed is less than $100,000. The concurrent jurisdiction of the Court of Québec with that of the Superior Court for cases with a value equal to or exceeding $75,000 but less than $100,000 is interesting: Although the procedure for conducting proceedings in the Court of Québec has been simplified for such cases, it is likely that many cases will nonetheless be instituted in the Superior Court, as its procedural process is a little less intrusive, particularly with respect to joint expert opinions, mandatory settlement conferences and the number of examinations. The Minister of Justice is hopeful that the amendments to the Act will improve access to justice for persons subject to trial, thanks to faster and less costly justice services, among other things. While these amendments will allow for more out-of-court settlements and prevent costly trials, we believe that there is still some uncertainty as to how accessible the expedited process will be, given the current staffing shortages in courthouses. 1. An Act to improve justice efficiency and accessibility, in particular by promoting mediation and arbitration and by simplifying civil procedure in the Court of Québec, Bill 8 (Introduced — February 1, 2023), 43rd Legislature, 1st Session (Qc) (“B.”). 2. Courts of Justice Act, CQLR c. T-16. 3. Professional Code, CQLR, c. C-26. 4. Code of Civil Procedure, CQLR c. C-25.01. 5. Transitional provision: claims of $85,000 initiated in the Court of Quebec before June 30, 2023 will continue under the provisions in effect prior to the coming into force of the PL amendments (PL, s 44). 6. B., s. 3; C.C.P., art. 35. 7. B., s. 44. 8. B., s. 3; C.C.P., art. 35. 9. B., s. 8; C.C.P., art. 535.1. 10. B., s. 8; C.C.P., art. 535.2. 11. B., s. 8; C.C.P., art. 535.3. 12. B., s. 8; C.C.P., art. 535.5. 13. B., s. 8; C.C.P., art. 535.6. 14. B., s. 8; C.C.P., art. 535.12. 15. B., s. 8; C.C.P., art. 535.13. 16. B., s. 8; C.C.P., art. 535.11. 17. B., s. 7; C.C.P., art. 229. 18. B., s. 8; C.C.P., art. 535.9, para. 2. 19. B., s. 8; C.C.P., art. 535.9. 20. B., s. 8; C.C.P., art. 535.15. 21. B., s. 15; C.C.P., art. 561.1. 22. B., s. 3; C.C.P., art. 35.

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  4. Insurers: Two-headed hydras

    On January 30, 2023, the Court of Appeal of Quebec rendered a decision in Commission scolaire De La Jonquière c. Intact Compagnie d’assurance.1 The key issues in this case are the potential for conflicts arising from liability insurance policies and the obligation to disclose documents where insurers’ duty to defend conflicts with their duty to indemnify insureds. The facts This case is part of a class action in which all Quebec school boards—now referred to as school service centres (SSCs)—were accused of violating the right to free elementary and secondary education. As part of this class action, the SSCs brought an action in warranty against their insurers, seeking compensation for any amount they may be required to pay. The insurers acknowledged their obligation to defend the appellants in the main proceedings; however, they argued that the claim was not covered by the insurance contract. Following negotiations, the parties to the class action reached a settlement. The action in warranty against the insurers is still pending. At the examination for discovery stage of the action in warranty, the insurers asked to obtain a copy of all communications exchanged between the appellants and their counsel since the beginning of the main proceedings. The SSCs objected to this request on the basis of professional secrecy and litigation privilege. The Court therefore had to rule on the merits of the objection. The trial Drawing on the decision in Domtar2, the Superior Court dismissed the SSCs’ objection, holding that they had waived their right to assert solicitor-client privilege regarding anything relating to the reasonableness of the settlement. It appears that the Court inferred this waiver from certain allegations made and from the disclosure of certain documents as part of the action in warranty. The Court concluded that the appellants had to provide the insurers with the documents, risk analyses, letters, exchanges with the appellants and expert opinions having related to the reasonableness of the settlement since the beginning of the main proceedings. However, according to the Court of Appeal, the Court failed to provide a framework for such disclosure of information and to grant the SSCs the right to raise new objections in relation to said documents. The appeal The Court of Appeal considered the conflicts that may arise from the dual responsibility of insurers: their duty to defend insureds and their duty to indemnify them. In this regard, it described liability insurers and their role as follows: [20] The liability insurer is effectively a two-headed hydra: A type of two-headed creature with a single corporate identity, but where one head handles the insured’s defence and the other protects the insurer’s financial interests by ensuring that it only pays out for covered losses.[21] Each head must base its decisions on the interest it is defending and the information available to it. The two heads must remain separate in order to give effect to the insurance contract. […] The risk of a conflict of interest is therefore very real, which is why the insurer must put measures in place to ensure that it complies with the coverage provided by the policy, while also ensuring the full and complete defence of the insured.] As for the ethical obligations of the lawyer mandated by the insurer to represent the insured, the Court stated that the lawyer becomes the insured’s counsel in all respects and owes the insured absolute loyalty. As such, the right to professional secrecy in the insured’s relationship with the lawyer can be set up against the insurer. That being said, the lawyer must report on the progress of the case to the head of the hydra handling the insured’s defence. The Court then stated that it was essential in this context that the information thus obtained be accessible only to that head, and that the insurer put in place the necessary measures to keep the two heads separate. The Court of Appeal found that the trial judge did not err in concluding that the SSCs were required to provide the evidence necessary to examine the reasonableness of the settlement reached with the insurers. However, in order to do so, an exemption mechanism could be implemented, giving the SSCs the possibility to object to the disclosure of certain information. The Court also confirmed that there was no basis for concluding that the appellants had waived solicitor-client or litigation privilege with respect to all of their exchanges with their counsel. This information must remain protected by professional secrecy and therefore cannot be disclosed to the person at the insurer’s office in charge of the compensation file. The same goes for the accounts for fees, reports, opinions and other documents sent to the person at the insurer’s office handling the defence, unless the insured waives this right. Conclusion This case highlights the conflicts that can arise from the duality of insurers’ responsibilities and the distinction between insurers’ obligation to defend insureds and their obligation to indemnify them. Although the Court ruled that evidence aimed at verifying the reasonableness of a settlement from a qualitative and quantitative standpoint should be disclosed, it concluded that certain information and documents that are strictly relevant to insureds’ defence need not be disclosed. In so doing, it reiterated insurers’ dual responsibility and the importance of keeping the two heads separate when an insurer agrees to take on an insured’s defence, but maintained its refusal to indemnify the insured. Commission scolaire De La Jonquière c. Intact Compagnie d’assurance, 2023 QCCA 124. Chubb Insurance company of Canada c. Domtar, 2017 QCCA 1004.

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  1. Lavery announces appointment of Paul Martel, a leading expert in corporate law

    Mr. Martel is recognized for his ability to provide pragmatic, innovative solutions to the most complex legal issues in corporate law. He was a law professor for over 25 years and has contributed to most major corporate law journals, including La Revue du Barreau du Québec. “I’m so pleased and excited to be starting the fifth chapter of my professional career at Lavery, a firm I hold in high esteem. I look forward to putting my expertise to good use with the firm’s clients, as well as helping to consolidate the multidisciplinary service offering for which Lavery is renowned in the legal and business markets,” said Paul Martel, partner at Lavery. As a leading expert in corporate law, and a respected teacher, lecturer and author, he regularly advises government authorities on major legislative changes, including those to the Civil Code of Québec, Quebec’s Companies Act, the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Act respecting the legal publicity of enterprises. He has also acted as a consultant to the Minister of Finance of Quebec in developing and drafting the new Business Corporations Act, and to the Agence du Revenu du Québec in updating the Quebec Enterprise Register. “Paul Martel has authored several landmark legal works on corporate law, and his outstanding track record and extensive expertise in the legal and business industries of Quebec, Canada and the United States will further strengthen the quality of Lavery’s services in this area of practice. He will certainly be a great inspiration to us all, and his presence at the firm will have a major impact on our teams, as he assists our Business Law group,” concluded René Branchaud, Head of practice of Lavery’s Business Law group.

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  2. The Court of Appeal recognizes Lavery’s leadership in matters involving surety bonds

    In a landmark decision, the Court confirms the scope of the surety bond indemnity agreement that our firm helped to draft in Gestion ITR inc. v. Intact Compagnie d'assurance.. Lavery’s reputation in construction bonding is well established. The firm has been a leader in this field for decades. Under the direction of our partner Nicolas Gagnon, Lavery supports the industry in contentious matters, while providing guidance on major policies. Over 30 years ago, our firm was in charge of drafting the content of an indemnity agreement between a construction company and a major surety company. That agreement is still widely used in the industry today. The Court of Appeal of Québec recognized the scope of the agreement in a recent decision, confirming that the obligations of the signatories to the agreement included, in particular, the reimbursement of losses incurred by the surety, not only under surety bonds it had issued, but also under agreements entered into between the principal surety and another surety that had agreed to act as the construction company’s guarantor. This essentially means that the signatories to an indemnity agreement must reimburse the losses incurred by a surety that was obtained by the principal surety. Our partner Nicolas Gagnon commented on this as follows: “So much effort went into drafting this indemnity agreement, given its significance for the industry. We’re obviously thrilled to see that Quebec’s highest Court agrees with our logic, and that it confirmed that the scope of the agreement we helped to draft applies to the situations we had identified.” We would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge our industry colleagues’ skillful work in defending the indemnity agreement.

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  3. Myriam Brixi recognized as Canada’s leading litigation expert by Lexpert

    On November 23, 2023, Lexpertrecognized Myriam Brixi’s expertise in its 2023 Special Edition: Litigation. This directory ranks the leading litigators involved in Canada’s landmark litigation cases who have distinguished themselves in the legal profession by providing outstanding service to clients. Each year, the Canadian Legal Lexpert Directory team analyzes the most notable cases in the country and conducts in-depth interviews with litigation lawyers to evaluate peer nominations and place the spotlight on outstanding legal professionals. As a partner in Lavery’s Litigation and Dispute Resolution group, Myriam Brixi focuses her practice primarily in the areas of class actions, product liability, consumer law and insurance law. She has participated in complex class actions raising important legal issues, including a wide range of multi-jurisdictional class actions.   Myriam adds this recognition to the one she received earlier this year as Quebec Litigator of the Year in the Emerging Talent category and another she received as one of the Top 100 Women in Canadian Litigation by Benchmark Litigation. Congratulations to Myriam for this distinction that is a testament to her talent and expertise. For more information, please go to: About Lavery Lavery is the leading independent law firm in Québec. Its more than 200 professionals, based in Montréal, Québec City, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières, work every day to offer a full range of legal services to organizations doing business in Québec. Recognized by the most prestigious legal directories, Lavery professionals are at the heart of what is happening in the business world and are actively involved in their communities. The firm’s expertise is frequently sought after by numerous national and international partners to provide support in cases under Québec jurisdiction.

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