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  • Securities and class actions: screening authorizations

    Anyone who wants to bring an action in damages relating to the secondary securities market must prove that the action is brought in good faith and has a reasonable chance of success (s. 225.4 QSA). In Quebec,1 as elsewhere in Canada,2 no prior disclosure of evidence may be obtained by plaintiff for the purpose of meeting this burden. The procedure prescribed by the QSA is complete and sufficient, so recourse to the rules Code of Civil Procedure is unwarranted. Where such an action is brought by way of class action, the court must furthermore be convinced that the criteria for authorizing a class action are also met. The Court of Appeal does not expressly rule on whether prior disclosure is available to the investor  to sustain the proposed class action. These specific rules have no impact on the general rules regarding insurance, such as a plaintiff's direct right of action against the insurer of the person who caused the damage (art. 2501 CCQ). Regardless of the subject matter (the secondary market) or the procedural vehicle (class action), a court may order a defendant to disclose such documents which are necessary for a meaningful exercise of this right, such as insurance policies. In its recent decision in Amaya Inc. v. Derome, 2018 QCCA 120, the Court of Appeal ruled on the interaction between the Securities Act, CQLR, c.V-1.1 (QSA) and the rules specific to class actions in relation to applications by investors for prior disclosure of documents by a public issuer. We summarize here a much-anticipated decision. The Specific Framework of the QSA The QSA governs actions relating to financial markets. Although such actions may be introduced on an individual basis, class actions are regarded as the preferred vehicle, “given that publicly-traded issuers generally have many investors in like circumstances and, if something goes wrong, they are likely to come together to avail themselves of the advantages of a class action.”3 Class actions are merely one of the available vehicles, and it is in no way a requirement to use this type of proceeding. With respect to actions relating to the secondary market, section 225.4 QSA requires that any investor, whether acting personally or as representative of a proposed group, be authorized by the court before bringing the proposed action. This restriction was enacted –and similarly so across Canada–4 to preserve public confidence in stock markets,5 but also to protect public issuers against opportunistic actions brought in hopes of obtaining a settlement rather than to obtain compensation for actual damage.6 Accordingly, an investor who claims to have been defrauded will have to prove to the court from which authorization is requested that the proposed action is “in good faith and there is a reasonable possibility that it will be resolved in favour of the plaintiff” (s. 225.4 para. 3 QSA). Motions for authorization should be addressed as early as possible, so that judicial resources are allocated only to meritorious cases. Interaction With Class Actions If the action takes the form of a class action, the investor must also meet the criteria for authorization of a class action (art. 575 CCP), a burden which has been established to be a light one, since it simply involves proving that “the facts alleged appear to justify the conclusions sought” (art. 575(3) CCP).7 Not only do the QSA and the CCP impose different burdens, but the authorization they require arises at different moments in the course of the proceedings o: the authorization required by section 225.4 QSA must, necessarily, precede the authorization required by article 575 CCP. As the Court of Appeal points out: “This is eminently logical: where leave is required under the Act, there is no action upon which the class action, as a procedural vehicle, can rest until that leave is granted.”8 Of course, both issues can be disposed of in one judgment.9 With these distinctions made, it is clear that any application brought for the purpose of enabling an investor to meet the burden established by section 225.4 QSA must be analyzed pursuant to the rules set out in that provision and not the rules that generally apply to class actions.10 The judgment appealed from was therefore not a “pre-authorization class action judgment”; it was a “judgment prior to leave under the [QSA]”.11 Accordingly, it had to be reviewed in accordance with the requirements and the spirit of the QSA.12 The Judgment Under Appeal The trial judge had granted an application for documentary disclosure, relying on the parties’ general duty to cooperate set forth by article 20 of the CCP.13 He thus arrived at a solution that is unique in the Canadian legal landscape.14 Though rendered during a case management conference, the judgment under appeal  went significantly beyond the confines of case management. Accordingly, the application for leave should follow the rules applicable to judgments rendered in the course of proceedings, set out in article 31 para. 2 CCP.15 The trial judge's decision has addressed a point of law regarding to discovery, which impacted “the character of the proceedings themselves,” and which, if decided wrongly could cause irreparable harm to defendant, regardless of the expenses involved.16 Leave was granted and the Court of Appeal had to consider, on the merits, whether the trial judge was correct in applying the general principles of Quebec civil procedure to the applications for documentary disclosure that were before him. For the Code of Civil Procedure to “compensate[e] for the silence of the other laws if the context so admits,” as provided by its preliminary provision, such a silence must exist. In the opinion of the Court of Appeal, considering the purpose and history of section 225.4 QSA – in particular its goal of screening out opportunistic actions as soon as possible17 – and the uniformity of legislation on this subject in Canada,18 no such silence can be found to exist. On the contrary: in order to avoid short-circuiting the requirement for prior authorization and avoid fishing expeditions and mini-trials, judges who are responsible for authorizing actions of this nature must require that applicants meet their burden themselves.19 Neither the combination of articles 20 and 221 CCP or the specific context of class actions can sidestep that prohibition.20 Insofar as it was sought to allow the investor to meet the burden imposed by section 225.4 QSA, the application for documentary disclosure should have been dismissed. By contrast, the application to obtain disclosure of the insurance policies did not fall within the specific context of section 225.4 SA, and the trial judge's order was left undisturbed, Given the principle of cooperation (art. 20 CCP), but most importantly the long-settled principle that a third party seeking to exercise their right of action against the insurer of the person who caused the damage they suffered (art. 2501 CCQ) such applications can be justified in that they allow potential parties to the case to be identified.21 The Court of Appeal’s decision does not directly address whether class counsel may succeed in a request for “relevant evidence to be submitted” within the meaning of article 574 para. 3 CCP; such requests are traditionally considered to be properly made to contest  the application, that is, necessarily by defendant,  given that the allegations in the application for authorization to institute a class action must be assumed to be true at that stage.22 Summary Section 225.4 QSA is the expression, in Quebec law, of an intent common to all Canadian legislatures to create a screening mechanism for actions relating to the secondary market, in order to preserve investor confidence and deter frivolous suits. Accordingly, where an applicant seeks prior disclosure in order to meet the criterion for authorization set out in section 225.4 QSA, his or her application should be dismissed, including in a class action context. Where the objective of the application for prior disclosure is not one germane to the QSA, for instance, where an applicant seeks information to join an insurer to the proceedings, such application needs to be considered under the ordinary rules of Quebec law.   Theratechnologies Inc. v. 121851 Canada inc., [2015] 2 SCR 106, 2015 SCC 18 Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce v. Green, [2015] 3 SCR 801, 2015 SCC 60 Par. 52 Par. 97 Par. 84 Paras. 49 and 84; following, inter alia, Theratechnologies Inc. v. 121851 Canada inc., [2015] 2 SCR 106, 2015 SCC 18 or Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce v. Green, [2015] 3 SCR 801, 2015 SCC 60 Para. 50 Para. 46. Paras. 20, 46 and 54 Para. 45 Paras. 42, 45 and 55 Para. 55 Derome v. Amaya inc., 2017 QCCS 44, paras. 79 et seq. Para. 36; compare: Mask v. Silvercorp Metals Inc., 2016 ONCA 641 and Mask v. Silvercorp Metals Inc., 2014 ONSC 4161 – leave to appeal ref’d: Mask v. Silvercorp Metals, Inc., 2014 ONSC 464 (Ont. Div. Ct); Bayens v. Kinross Gold Corp., 2013 ONSC 6864; Silver v. Imax, (2009) 66 B.L.R. (4th) 222, leave to appeal ref'd, Silver v. Imax,2011 ONSC 1035 (Ont. Div. Ct) Paras. 73 to 79 Paras. 66 et seq.; leave to appeal had been referred to a panel of the Court: Amaya inc. v. Derome, 2017 QCCA 335. Paras. 49 and 84 Paras. 9 and 97 Paras. 9 and 93 Paras. 106 and 107 Collège d'enseignement général et professionnel de Jonquière (CÉGEP) v. Champagne, 1996 CanLII 4413 (CA) Benizri v. Canada Post Corporation, 2016 QCCS 454, para. 6

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  • Prescription and Indirect Victims of Bodily Injury: the Supreme Court Rules

    On October 13, 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered an important decision1, putting an end to a jurisprudential and doctrinal debate on civil liability and prescription in the field of municipal liability. Facts In October 2010, Ms. Maria Altragracia Dorval ("Dorval") was murdered by her ex-spouse. The respondents, who were close relatives of Dorval, blamed the police officers of the City of Montreal ("City") for failing to follow up on Dorval's complaints in the weeks preceding her murder. In October 2013, the respondents instituted an action in damages against the City, as principal of the police officers. In a motion to dismiss, the City argued that the six-month time limit for prescription set out in article 586 of the Cities and Towns Act2 ("CTA") applied and that the respondents' action was prescribed. According to the City, the respondents were not direct victims of bodily injury and could nottherefore take advantage of the three-year prescription period set out in article 2930 of the Civil Code of Quebec3 ("C.C.Q."), which states, in particular, that an action based on bodily injury is prescribed by three years, notwithstanding any contrary provision. The respondents, in turn, argued that, even as indirect victims, they did benefit from prescription under article 2930 C.C.Q. on the basis that the purpose of the recourse is to compensate for damages arising from a bodily injury. Issue in dispute Was the respondents' recourse as indirect victims extinguished because they failed to comply with the prescription period of six months under the CTA, or did they also benefit from the three-year prescription period provided in article 2930 C.C.Q.? Case law and doctrine The disputed issue, while dealing with the prescription period, raised the question of how the injury was to be characterized. In this case, did the indirect victims suffer a bodily injury? The issue of characterizing the injury gave rise to two different lines of authority in the case law and doctrine. The first line of authority characterizes the injury, whether it be bodily, moral or material, on the basis of the consequences of the interference suffered by the victim. Thus, it focuses on determining the effects of the wrongful act, downstream, and on characterizing the injury as a function of the damages suffered. In this case, since the damages suffered by the indirect victims were not bodily in nature, they were not victims of bodily injury, but rather, of moral or material injury. The second line of authority characterizes the injury on the basis of the type of interference itself, and therefore upstream. The focus here is on characterizing the wrongful act itself, i.e., whether it pertains to the physical integrity of the person, his or her property, or psychological integrity. Next, the consequences of this interference are characterized as pecuniary or non-pecuniary damages. In this case, given the nature of the interference was a bodily injury, the injuries suffered by the victim's relatives would also be characterized as bodily in nature, causing them pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages, depending on the death's impact on those persons. Proceedings in the lower courts The Superior Court granted the City's motion and dismissed the respondents' action, holding that it was prescribed. Following the first line of authority, the court found that only immediate victims can take advantage of the three-year prescription period conferred by article 2930 C.C.Q., since only they have suffered a "bodily injury". The Court of Appeal, following the second line of authority, held instead that the respondents' action was not prescribed. It found that the injury must be characterized according to the type of interference that caused it, and not based on the nature of the damages claimed. Accordingly, since the respondents' action was founded on a bodily injury, it was therefore covered by the three-year prescription period under article 2930 C.C.Q. Supreme Court of Canada In a majority judgment written by Justice Wagner, the Court found that the basis of the action brought by the respondents was the reparation of Dorval's bodily injury resulting from the City's wrongful interference with her physical integrity. It therefore held that article 2930 C.C.Q. must be interpreted in favour of the indirect victims of a bodily injury. In reaching this conclusion, the Supreme Court first considered the decision of the Court of Appeal in the Tarquini case.4 In that matter, the plaintiff claimed damages from the City of Montreal as a result of the death of her spouse in a bicycle accident. As in this case, the City of Montreal pleaded the short prescription period under the CTA. The Court of Appeal found that the plaintiff's recourse was not prescribed on the basis that the bodily injury in question under article 2930 C.C.Q. did not solely contemplate the injury suffered by the immediate victim, but rather, any damages resulting from a bodily injury, including those of indirect victims. Next, the Supreme Court, acknowledging that the expression "bodily injury" must be interpreted as resulting from interference with a person's physical integrity, opted to resolve the issue by reference to the basis of the action as instituted, in accordance with the second line of jurisprudential and doctrinal authority. It submitted that the characterization of the victims' action, whether as direct or indirect, is determined on the basis of the type of interference alleged, whether bodily, material or moral. As for the consequences thereof, they correspond to the heads and the characterization of the damages claimed. The Supreme Court indicated that the purpose of article 2930 C.C.Q. is to protect personal integrity and ensure the full indemnification of victims. Consequently, eliminating the distinction between direct and indirect victims favours the achievement of this objective by conferring on all victims the benefit of an extended prescription period. Furthermore, the Supreme Court was of the view that to distinguish between immediate victims and collateral victims would have the effect of creating two different prescription periods for the same wrongful act. This inconsistency is avoided by favouring a broad interpretation of article 2930 C.C.Q. The Court also noted that, since the Tarquini decision, both the doctrine and case law had preferred this interpretation, favouring the stability of the law. The Court held that "any civil liability action instituted to claim reparation for the direct and immediate consequences of interference with a person’s physical integrity must be based on the obligation to make reparation for bodily injury caused to another"5 within the meaning of article 2930 C.C.Q., whether it be the recourse of the direct victim or indirect victim. Thus, indirect victims are also entitled to the prescription period of three years. Dissent We note that Justices Côté and Brown, preferring the first line of authority referred to above, issued a dissenting opinion. In their opinion, since the respondents were not direct victims of interference with physical integrity, they could not rely on article 2930 C.C.Q. Accordingly, they found that the respondents' action was based instead on the obligation to compensate for the moral and material injury they had suffered as a result of the death of their relative, and not on the bodily injury which was in fact suffered by Dorval alone. Only a person having suffered interference with his or her own physical integrity could benefit from the three-year prescription set out in article 2930 C.C.Q. In our view, the country's highest court has clearly resolved the debate on this issue.   Montréal (Ville de) c. Dorval, 2017 SCC 48 Cities and Towns Act, C.Q.L.R., c. C-19 Civil Code of Quebec, C.Q.L.R., c. CCQ-1991 Montréal (Ville) c. Tarquini, [2001] RJQ 1405 Montréal (Ville de) c. Dorval, 2017 SCC 48, para. 55

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  • The Superior Court of Québec rules on the insurable interest of someone
    who acted as a nominee in the context of the acquisition of a property

    On September 8, 2017, in the case of El-Ferekh c. Intact, compagnie d’assurance, 1 the Superior Court of Québec ruled on the insurable interest of someone who acted as a nominee in the context of the deeds pertaining to the acquisition of an immovable property covered by an insurance policy. The insurer had denied coverage on several grounds, namely, the absence of insurable interest, the misleading representations at the time of the underwriting of the policy and an increase of risk. The facts The plaintiff, Robbie El-Ferekh (“Robbie”), instituted proceedings against Intact compagnie d’assurance (“Intact”), claiming $296,941.38 for damages caused to a property which Intact insured. At the time the mortgage was purchased, Steven El-Ferekh (“Steven”) had asked Robbie to act as a nominee in the context of the sale for tax and financing reasons. The deeds of mortgage and sale were both made in Robbie’s name even if, in fact, Steven was assuming the payment of the mortgage and all expenses related to the property. When purchasing the insurance policy on the property, Steven posed as his brother as he answered the questions of the insurance broker. Since Steven declared that he would live in the property, a homeowner policy was issued by Intact. Prior to the closing of the sale of the property and purchasing the insurance policy, and contrary to his representations to the insurance broker, Steven rented the property to a third party. The tenant occupied the property for more than three years. Several months after the tenant left, a fire, the cause of which remains undetermined, entirely destroyed the property. Robbie filed a claim with Intact. Intact denied coverage on the grounds that the policy was null ab initio for lack of insurable interest and because of the false and misleading representations of the El-Ferekh brothers. The judgment The Court first confirmed that an insured had to demonstrate that he suffered financial harm as a result of the loss of the property to justifying an insurable interest. Accordingly, a nominee has no insurable interest since he cannot suffer direct and immediate harm as a result of the loss of such property. Robbie first alleged that an implicit partnership existed between himself and his brother and that their patrimonies were merged. This argument was rejected by the Court since a private arrangement cannot be effective against third parties. Secondly, Robbie alleged that he had an insurable interest as a mortgage debtor. However, the evidence demonstrated that Steven assumed all expenses on the property and that, accordingly, Robbie was not exposed to any financial loss as a result of the fire. The Court thus ruled that the policy was void ab initio because of the lack of insurable interest. Although this conclusion was enough to dismiss the action, the Superior Court nevertheless ruled on the other grounds for denial raised by Intact. The Court confirmed that Intact was justified in invoking the nullity of the policy taking into account the bad faith of the insured and the false statements made respecting the occupation of the property. On the one hand, it was proved that Robbie never lived in the property and that a homeowner policy has issued. On the other hand, although Intact Créneaux, a division of Intact, could have accepted to cover the property as leased property, it is a separate entity from Intact. Therefore, the Court concluded that the insured acted in bad faith when he purchased the insurance, which also justified the ab initio nullity of the policy. As for the risk increase, the evidence demonstrated many aggravating circumstances during the coverage period, namely: criminal activities on the property (the culture of cannabis), police interventions, a change of the electrical system, failure to supply the property with electricity and a situation where the property was left vacant. The Court determined that Intact was well-founded in denying coverage for that reason. Conclusion In brief, the Superior Court concluded: that the simple fact that someone is a mortgage debtor does not constitute evidence of insurable interest in the property; that a nominee has no insurable interest since he cannot suffer any direct and immediate harm resulting from the loss of such property. In other words, in the absence of an exposure to financial loss, a nominee cannot demonstrate an insurable interest in a property.   2017 QCCS 4077 (Judge Guylène Beaugé).

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  • Bill 150 and the distribution of financial products and services

    On October 31, 2017, Québec’s Finance Minister, Carlos J. Leitão, introduced Bill 150, An Act respecting mainly the implementation of certain provisions of the Budget Speeches of 17 March 2016 and 28 March 2017 (“Bill 150”). In this newsletter we will discuss the changes made to the Civil Code of Québec (“CCQ”), the Act respecting insurance, c. A-32 and the Act respecting the distribution of financial products and services, c. D-9.2 (“Distribution Act”) affecting the offer and distribution of insurance products. According to the Minister’s speech upon introduction of Bill 150, the main amendment that would affect products themselves would be to permit group damage insurance contracts. Other proposed amendments affect the offer and distribution of group insurance products. Civil Code of Québec The proposed changes to the CCQ relating to damage insurance are significant since they formally introduce the concept of group damage insurance. Until now, the CCQ provided that insurance of persons was either individual or group. The lack of a similar provision for damage insurance, along with the lack of a clear provision allowing this type of insurance, led to the conclusion that group damage insurance was not permitted in Québec. Bill 150 codifies this concept, making the following changes: Non-marine insurance may henceforth be either individual insurance or group insurance; The concept of a group damage insurance policy is introduced in article 2395 CCQ; The CCQ no longer indicates that insurance of persons is individual insurance or group insurance, which removes any ambiguity about whether group damage insurance is permitted. Act respecting the distribution of financial products and services With the repeal and amendment of several sections of the Distribution Act and the removal of the concept of adhesion, which is specific to group insurance, distribution without a representative, through a distributor, would now cover individual insurance products. In fact, Bill 150 maintains the possibility of an insurer to offer an insurance product through a distributor, namely a person who, in pursuing activities in a field other than insurance, offers, as an accessory, for an insurer, an insurance product which relates solely to goods sold by the person.1 Products deemed to be insurance products which relate solely to goods but which are not affected by Bill 150 are: travel insurance, vehicle rental insurance where the rental period is less than four months, credit card and debit card insurance, and vehicle replacement insurance as defined in the Distribution Act.2 The section of the Distribution Act3 that provides that debtor life, health and employment insurance and investor life, health and employment insurance are deemed to be an insurance product which relates solely to goods and to which clients adhere is repealed. Such changes suggest that participation in group insurance products offered by insurers, whether in damage insurance or insurance of persons, is no longer covered by the rule respecting distribution other than through a representative.4 The changes made by Bill 150 relating to the definition of representative in insurance of persons5 also indicate that participation in a group insurance contract would no longer be reserved for representatives in insurance of persons, meaning that group insurance contracts could henceforth be offered directly. Act respecting insurance Along with the changes made to the Distribution Act, the Act respecting insurance is amended to provide that an insurer who enters into a group insurance contract must deliver to the client a document intended for participants, in respect of the sound and prudent management practices and commercial practices insurers must adhere to.6 The information set forth in this document is intended to disclose to participants, in a timely manner, information relevant for making an enlightened decision and for the performance of the contract. The information from this document is somehow similar to what must be included in the distribution guide for insurance products distributed without a representative: 1) the scope of the coverage considered and any exclusions; 2) the time limits, in conformity with the Civil Code, within which the insurer must be notified of a loss and the time limits within which the insurer is required to pay the insured sums or the indemnity provided for; 3) the information necessary for filing a complaint with the insurer referred to in section 285.29 of the Act respecting insurance, which provides for the policy in respect of the examination of complaints and resolution of disputes every insurer must establish in order to provide equitable resolution of complaints. Since the documentation prescribed by article 2401 CCQ remains the same, insurers must also give the client the insurance certificates which the client must distribute to participants, and issues the group insurance policy to the client, who must make it available to participants and beneficiaries wishing to examine or make copies of it. Finally, the proposed changes also introduce an increased level of liability for an insurer entering into a group insurance contract with a client that is affiliated with the insurer or that belongs to the insurer’s group, such as a federation and the mutual insurance associations that are members of it.7 Not only must the insurer deliver an explanatory document to participants, it must also ensure that the client delivers it to participants. The insurer is liable for the acts performed by or on behalf of the client toward enrolling participants under the group insurance contract.8 The amendments proposed by Bill 150 are in addition to those set out in Bill 141,9 which reforms, extensively, Québec’s financial sector. Lavery’s experts can help you position yourself competitively and seize new strategic opportunities resulting from these fundamental changes in the financial sector.   Section 408 of the Distribution Act. Section 424(5) of the Distribution Act. Section 426 of the Distribution Act. Title VIII of the Distribution Act. Section 238 of Bill 150 and section 3 of the Distribution Act. Sections 222.1 and 222.2 of the Act respecting insurance, c. A-32. Section 1.5 of the Act respecting insurance, c. A-32. See section 235 of Bill 150. See Lavery’s October 5, 2017 newsletter entitled “Comprehensive reform of the rules governing the regulation and operations in the Québec financial sector”.

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  • Bill 150 and damage insurance brokerage

    On October 31, 2017, Québec’s Finance Minister, Carlos J. Leitão, introduced Bill 150, An Act respecting mainly the implementation of certain provisions of the Budget Speeches of 17 March 2016 and 28 March 2017 (“Bill 150”). In this article, we will discuss the changes made to the Act respecting the distribution of financial products and services (the “Act”) relating to damage insurance brokerage. The following is a summary of the main changes to the Act involving damage insurance brokerage based on Minister Leitão’s speech introducing Bill 150. New rules for products’ offering, firm registration and disclosure Damage insurance brokers will be required to offer clients products from at least four insurers that do not belong to the same financial group, namely insurers who are not affiliated with the firm. It will be interesting to hear comments from damage insurance brokers about the implementation of this new rule, which benefits consumers and will increase transparency. Note that a broker who is unable to offer clients insurance products from at least four insurers may nonetheless continue offering insurance products but must make every effort to comply with this rule and keep on file any information proving these efforts were made. The Autorité des marchés financiers (the “AMF”) may verify compliance with this provision during an inspection and require that a firm and its representatives change their registration to that of an agency if the broker’s “efforts” are considered insufficient. This exception to the new obligation to offer products from at least four insurers seems to require that brokers be able to prove to the AMF that they have made the required efforts to offer a client an insurance proposal from at least four insurers. Registration of a damage insurance firm will be made based on its representatives’ registration categories: a firm will be a damage insurance agency if it acts through damage insurance agents; a firm will be a damage insurance brokerage firm if its acts through damage insurance brokers. A damage insurance agent offers damage insurance products to the public on behalf of a firm that is an insurer or is bound by an exclusive contract with a single insurer. A damage insurance broker offers a range of damage insurance products directly to the public from several insurers and, under Bill 150, from at least four insurers, by client proposal. Firms will be subject to new disclosure requirements on their website and in their communications with clients: a damage insurance agency will be required to disclose the name of the insurers with which it is bound by an exclusive contract and which products are included in such contract; and a damage insurance brokerage firm will be required to disclose the name of the insurers for which it offers insurance products. Ownership of damage insurance brokerage firms The 20% rule is maintained but in a different form. Consultations pertaining to the 20% rule were held in the spring of 2017.1 During these consultations, the industry was asked to comment on the need to maintain this rule and on possible alternatives for managing conflicts of interest between damage insurance brokerage firms and insurers. According to the changes proposed in Bill 150, registration as a damage insurance brokerage firm is prohibited if a financial institution, financial group or legal person affiliated with them has a significant interest in the firm’s decisions or equity. “Significant interest” means: with respect to a firm’s decisions, the power to exercise 20% or more of the voting rights attached to the shares issued by the firm; and with respect to a firm’s equity, holding shares issued by the firm that represent 20% or more of its equity capital. Section 148 of the Act, which prohibited a financial institution, financial group or a legal person affiliated with them from holding more than 20% of the voting rights or shares of a damage insurance firm acting through a damage insurance broker, is repealed. The legislator specifies that the 20% rule under Bill 150 does not prohibit any financing agreement or any service contract between a financial institution and a firm. Recall that in 2007, the AMF published a staff notice2 concerning the ownership of damage insurance brokerage firms which said that, to ensure that firms remained independent, a financial institution could not sign a financing agreement with a firm unless the terms of such agreement were those that would be agreed to by a lender at arm’s length. The changes proposed by Bill 150 are in addition to those set out in Bill 1413, which proposes an extensive reform of the laws governing Québec’s financial sector. Our financial products and services team can help you take a strategic position to benefit from new business opportunities that will result from the new rules and answer any questions you may have about these changes.   See Need to know newsletter of April 18, 2017 entitled “Consultation on the 20% Rule”. Avis du personnel relatif à la propriété des cabinets en assurance de dommages [staff notice regarding the ownership of damage insurance firms] (in French only), AMF Bulletin: 2007-02-16, Vol. 4 No. 07. See Lavery’s October 5, 2017 bulletin entitled “Comprehensive reform of the rules governing the regulation and operations in the Québec financial sector”.

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  • Comprehensive reform of the rules governing the regulation
    and operations in the Québec financial sector

    On October 5, 2017, Québec's Minister of Finance, Carlos J. Leitão, has tabled Bill 141 in Québec's National Assembly. The Bill, which is 470 pages long and includes some 750 sections, is entitled An Act mainly to improve the regulation of the financial sector, the protection of deposits of money and the operation of financial institutions. It proposes a major overhaul of the rules governing the operation of deposit-taking institutions and insurance companies, as well as the distribution of financial products and services (“FPS”) in the province. The Bill proposes amendments to the following laws: Act respecting insurance (repealed) Professional Code Act respecting trust companies and savings companies (replaced) Act respecting financial services cooperatives Act respecting the Mouvement Desjardins (repealed) Deposit Insurance Act (renamed Deposit Institutions and Deposit Protection Act) Derivatives Act Money-Services Businesses Act Automobile Insurance Act Act respecting the Autorité des marchés financiers (renamed Act respecting the regulation of the financial sector) Act respecting the distribution of financial products and services Real Estate Brokerage Act Insurers Act (enacted) Securities Act Based on the Minister's speech unveiling the Bill, the following is a summary of the 13 main categories of measures provided for in that draft legislation: Insurance — The Insurers Act is proposed as a replacement for the Act respecting insurance. It contains provisions governing the supervision and control of insurance business and of the activities of authorized (former permit holding) Québec insurers, as well asprovisions governing the constitution, operation and dissolution of Québec-incorporated insurers. The new Insurers Act also updates the rules applicable to the insurance activities of self-regulatory organizations (“SROs”), including professional orders. Financial services cooperatives — The Bill amends the Act respecting financial services cooperatives (essentially, credit unions which are members of the Groupe Coopératif Desjardins) to specify, among other things, rules relating to the organization and functioning of such cooperatives. The Bill adds a chapter concerning the Groupe coopératif Desjardins in replacement of the Act respecting the Mouvement Desjardins, which will be repealed. Deposit insurance — The Bill amends the Deposit Insurance Act and puts in place a new framework to supervise and control the deposit-taking business and authorized deposit-taking institutions in Québec. It includes provisions allowing for the resolution of problems arising from the failure of such an institution when affiliated to a cooperative group. The title of that Act is also changed to reflect the amendments made to it. Trust companies — The Act respecting trust companies and savings companies is replaced by a new legislation bearing the same title, but which redefines the regulatory framework governing those kinds of companies and their business. This framework is consistent with the new legislation to be applied to insurance companies and deposit-taking institutions. Real estate brokerage — The Act respecting real estate brokerage is to be amended to, among other things, define the concept of real estate brokerage contract, and to transfer to the Autorité des marches financiers (“AMF”) the supervision and control of mortgage brokers in the province. Financial products and services — The Bill amends The Act respecting the distribution of financial products and services to transfer to the AMF and the Financial Markets Administrative Tribunal ("FMAT") the SRO responsibilities currently entrusted to the Chambre de la sécurité financière and the Chambre de l’assurance de dommages. It also proposes a set of amendments aimed at facilitating the online offering and distribution of FPS. Act respecting the AMF — The Bill amends the Act respecting the Autorité des marchés financiers by introducing provisions to protect whistleblowers who denounce regulatory breaches of third parties to the AMF, to establish a committee tasked with taking submissions from consumers of FPS, and to structure the FMAT in a way similar to other provincial administrative tribunals, such as the Administrative Tribunal of Québec. The Act respecting the AMF is to be renamed an Act respecting the regulation of the financial sector. Funeral expenses insurance — The Bill amends the Civil Code of Québec to permit funeral expense insurance contracts to be entered into. It also modifies the Act respecting prearranged funeral services and sepultures, to provide for a more proper regulation of such contracts. Automobile insurance — The Bill amends the Automobile Insurance Act to specify how information relating to the acquisition or renewal of automobile insurance is to be filed. Money services — The Bill amends the Money-Services Businesses Act to provide for periodic checks (every three years) to be conducted on money-services businesses by the competent local police. Derivatives — The Bill adds derivatives trading platforms to the entities regulated under the Derivatives Act. Securities — The Bill amends the Securities Act to, among other things, replace the definition of "non-redeemable investment fund", prescribe restrictions on sharing commissions for certain dealers, and provide for the suspension of prescription when an application for authorization of an action for damages is filed under that Act. Legislation administered by the AMF — Finally, the Bill amends the laws administered by the AMF (listed in Schedule I to the Act respecting the Autorité des marchés financiers) to prescribe the duration of freeze orders obtainable under those laws and to prescribe the terms of administration and distribution of amounts remitted to the AMF pursuant to a disgorgement order issued thereunder. Bill 141 thus proposes wide-ranging reforms. It embodies measures which: amount to a major overhaul of certain financial laws (Desjardins’ financial services cooperatives, trust companies, deposit insurance); aim at providing a legal basis for operations that are either currently unregulated or unauthorized by law (e.g., the offering or distribution of FPS online); incorporate certain supranational standards into Québec's regulatory framework (e.g., resolution / orderly winding up of unstable systemically important financial institutions); redeploy the exercise of regulatory, supervisory and enforcement / disciplinary functions in the financial sector; and enact numerous new specific rules, particularly in the field of insurance (reciprocal insurance unions; exemption from authorization (permits) respecting suppliers of insurance-like extended warranty products; commercial practices; etc.). The scope is far-reaching for our clients operating in the Québec financial sector, and those who wish to efficiently seize the opportunities offered by the new rules that will govern the Québec's financial marketplace. They would now want: to learn more about the measures of the Bill and the way they may affect them, to position themselves competitively or adjust their ongoing projects in preparation for what is to come; to consult to knowledgeably define new strategies and be able to effectively implement them, in compliance with the new rules; to participate, separately or jointly with others stakeholders, to the consultations that the Minister of Finance has announced would be held on the Bill by a parliamentary committee, to present their views and propose enhancements to its provisions.

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  • The Role of the Expert under the new Code of Civil Procedure

    The coming into force of the new Code of Civil Procedure on January 1, 2016 created some uncertainty for litigation lawyers. One issue was the role of experts in litigation and in particular the emphasis on joint experts and the filing of an expert’s report in lieu of testimony. Other provisions that appear to deal a blow to professional secrecy and the litigation privilege could also affect litigation lawyers and their clients. The second paragraph of article 235 C.C.P., which covers the expert’s duties, as well as the second paragraph of article 238 C.C.P., which covers testimony taken by an expert, read as follows: “235. Experts are required, on request, to “235. Experts are required, on request, to provide the court and the parties with details on their professional qualifications, the progress of the work and the instructions received from a party; they are also required to comply with the time limits given to them. They may, if necessary to carry out their mission, request directives from the court; such a request is notified to the parties.” “238. Any testimony taken by the expert is attached to the report and forms part of the evidence.” The recent Superior Court decision in SNC-Lavalin inc. v. ArcelorMittal Exploitation minière Canada (2017 QCCS 737) sheds some light on the scope of these provisions and the interpretation given to them by the courts. The judgment The Honourable Jean-François Michaud ruled on objections dealing with professional secrecy and the litigation privilege. SNC-Lavalin Inc. (“SNC”) asked for [Translation] “the experts’ letters of undertaking and the instructions given to them regarding the performance of their mandate”. ArcelorMittal Mining Canada and ArcelorMittal Mines Canada Inc. (“Arcelor”) objected, primarily on the ground of professional secrecy. Arcelor could also have raised the litigation privilege. Before 2016, all solicitor-client communications were confidential and the opposing party did not have access to them. For litigation lawyers, it was their secret garden. Justice Michaud nonetheless dismissed Arcelor’s objection and allowed SNC’s request for two reasons. First, the experts described their mandate in their report, which constitutes a waiver of professional secrecy, at least with respect to that description of their mandate. According to the judge, this reasoning also applies to instructions received later which may have changed the scope of the mandate. The judge was also of the opinion that article 235 C.C.P. reduced the extent of professional secrecy and the litigation privilege, which he found to be reasonable given the expert’s [Translation] “impartial role and the search for the truth”. In obiter, the judge states that article 235 C.C.P. applies even though the experts’ reports were prepared before the new Code of Civil Procedure came into force since that article had immediate effect according to the transitional rules. Lastly, the judge held that Arcelor would be required to provide SNC with any subsequent instructions it gave its experts, although only those relating to the scope of the mandate and excluding any other discussions between the experts and Arcelor or their attorneys. In the second part of its application, SNC requested for the documents consulted by Arcelor’s experts [Translation] “on which they based their opinion”. This essentially covered interviews the experts conducted with some of Arcelor’s employees, which were mentioned in their report. Based on jurisprudence which preceded the reform, the court held that SNC had a right to those interviews if they were recorded and/or transcribed, since the experts’ report referred to them. However, if the experts only took notes of the interviews, those notes were protected by professional secrecy and the litigation privilege and Arcelor was under no obligation to provide them to the other party. Justice Michaud also set aside the application of article 238 C.C.P. which, as mentioned, requires that experts attach any testimony taken to their report. His decision was based on the fact that this provision did not exist when the interviews were conducted and article 238 C.C.P. is not retroactive. Without going into detail about transitional law, which is not the subject of this newsletter, it is difficult to see why this article would be treated differently from article 235 C.C.P. The judge concluded that at some point he will order the experts to meet pursuant to article 240 C.C.P. to “identify the points on which they differ”. Conclusion This judgment and the provisions on which it is based certainly result in a big change for litigation lawyers. They and their clients will likely have to adjust to the new rules. As mentioned above, this new approach runs counter to not only professional secrecy and the litigation privilege, but also the principle that each party is master of his own evidence. However, debates among experts often lead to more disputes than they resolve. In future, lawyers must be scrupulously clear as to the mandates and instructions given to experts.

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  • Artificial intelligence and its legal challenges

    Is there a greater challenge than to write a legal article on an emerging technology that does not exist yet in its absolute form? Artificial intelligence, through a broad spectrum of branches and applications, will impact corporate and business integrity, corporate governance, distribution of financial products and services, intellectual property rights, privacy and data protection, employment, civil and contractual liability, and a significant number of other legal fields. What is artificial intelligence? Artificial intelligence is “the science and engineering of making intelligence machines, especially intelligent computer programs”.1 Essentially, artificial intelligence technologies aim to allow machines to mimic “cognitive” functions of humans, such as learning and problem solving, in order for them to conduct tasks that are normally performed by humans. In practice, the functions of artificial intelligence are achieved by accessing and analyzing massive data (also known as “big data”) via certain algorithms. As set forth in a report published by McKinsey & Company in 2013 on disruptive technologies, “[i]mportant technologies can come in any field or emerge from any scientific discipline, but they share four characteristics: high rate of technological change, broad potential scope of impact, large economic value that could be affected, and substantial potential for disruptive economic impact”.2 Despite the interesting debate over the impact of artificial intelligence on humanity,3 the development of artificial intelligence has been on an accelerated path in recent years and we witnessed some major breakthroughs. In March 2016, Google’s computer program AlphaGo beat a world champion Go player, Lee Sedol, by 4 to 1 in the ancient Chinese board game. The breakthroughs reignited the world’s interest in artificial intelligence. Technology giants like Google and Microsoft, to name a few, have increased their investments in the research and development of artificial intelligence. This article will discuss some of the applications of artificial intelligence from a legal perspective and certain areas of law that will need to adapt - or be adapted - to the complex challenges brought by current and new developments in artificial intelligence. Legal challenges Artificial intelligence and its potential impacts have been compared to those of the Industrial Revolution, a form of transition to new manufacturing processes using new systems and innovative applications and machines. Health care L’intelligence artificielle est certes promise à un bel avenir dans le Artificial intelligence certainly has a great future in the health care industry. Applications of artificial intelligence with abilities to analyze massive data can make such applications a powerful tool to predict drug performance and help patients find the right drug or dosage that matches with their situation. For example, IBM’s Watson Health program “is able to understand and extract key information by looking through millions of pages of scientific medical literature and then visualize relationships between drugs and other potential diseases”.4 Some features of artificial intelligence can also help to verify if the patient has taken his or her pills through an application on smartphones, which captures and analyzes evidence of medication ingestion. In addition to privacy and data protection concerns, the potential legal challenges faced by artificial intelligence applications in the health care industry will include civil and contractual liabilities. If a patient follows the recommendation made by an artificial intelligence system and it turns out to be the wrong recommendation, who will be held responsible? It also raises legitimate complex legal questions, combined with technological concerns, as to the reliability of artificial intelligence programs and software and how employees will deal with such applications in their day-to-day tasks. Customer services A number of computer programs have been created to make conversation with people via audio or text messages. Companies use such programs for their customer services or for entertainment purposes, for example in messaging platforms like Facebook, Messenger and Snapchat. Although such programs are not necessarily pure applications of artificial intelligence, some of their features, actual or in development, could be considered as artificial intelligence. When such computer programs are used to enter into formal contracts (e.g., placing orders, confirming consent, etc.), it is important to make sure the applicable terms and conditions are communicated to the individual at the end of the line or that a proper disclaimer is duly disclosed. Contract enforcement questions will inevitably be raised as a result of the use of such programs and systems. Financial industry and fintech In recent years, many research and development activities have been carried out in the robotic, computer and tech fields in relation to financial services and the fintech industry. The applications of artificial intelligence in the financial industry will vary from a broad spectrum of branches and programs, including analyzing customers’ investing behaviours or analyzing big data to improve investment strategies and the use of derivatives. Legal challenges associated with artificial intelligence’s applications in the financial industry could be related, for example, to the consequences of malfunctioning algorithms. The constant relationship between human interventions and artificial intelligence systems, for example, in a stock trading platform, will have to be carefully set up to avoid, or at least confine, certain legal risks. Autonomous vehicles Autonomous vehicles are also known as “self-driving cars”, although the vehicles currently permitted to be on public roads are not completely autonomous. In June 2011, the state of Nevada became the first jurisdiction in the world to allow autonomous vehicles to operate on public roads. According to Nevada law, an autonomous vehicle is a motor vehicle that is “enabled with artificial intelligence and technology that allows the vehicle to carry out all the mechanical operations of driving without the active control or continuous monitoring of a natural person”.5 Canada has not adopted any law to legalize autonomous cars yet. Among the significant legal challenges facing autonomous cars, we note the issues of liability and insurance. When a car drives itself and an accident happens, who should be responsible? (For additional discussion of this subject under Québec law, refer to the Need to Know newsletter, “Autonomous vehicles in Québec: unanswered questions” by Léonie Gagné and Élizabeth Martin-Chartrand.) We also note that interesting arguments will be raised respecting autonomous cars carrying on commercial activities in the transportation industry such as shipping and delivery of commercial goods. Liability regimes The fundamental nature of artificial intelligence technology is itself a challenge to contractual and extra-contractual liabilities. When a machine makes or pretends to make autonomous decisions based on the available data provided by its users and additional data autonomously acquired from its own environment and applications, its performance and the end-results could be unpredictable. In this context, Book Five of the Civil Code of Québec (CCQ) on obligations brings highly interesting and challenging legal questions in view of anticipated artificial intelligence developments: Article 1457 of the CCQ states that: Every person has a duty to abide by the rules of conduct incumbent on him, according to the circumstances, usage or law, so as not to cause injury to another. Where he is endowed with reason and fails in this duty, he is liable for any injury he causes to another by such fault and is bound to make reparation for the injury, whether it be bodily, moral or material in nature. He is also bound, in certain cases, to make reparation for injury caused to another by the act, omission or fault of another person or by the act of things in his custody. Article 1458 of the CCQ further provides that: Every person has a duty to honour his contractual undertakings. Where he fails in this duty, he is liable for any bodily, moral or material injury he causes to the other contracting party and is bound to make reparation for the injury; neither he nor the other party may in such a case avoid the rules governing contractual liability by opting for rules that would be more favourable to them. Article 1465 of the CCQ states that: The custodian of a thing is bound to make reparation for injury resulting from the autonomous act of the thing, unless he proves that he is not at fault. The issues of foreseeable damages or direct damages, depending on the liability regime, and of the “autonomous act of the thing” will inescapably raise interesting debates in the context of artificial intelligence applications in the near future. In which circumstances the makers or suppliers of artificial intelligence applications, the end-users and the other parties benefiting from such applications could be held liable – or not – in connection with the results produced by artificial intelligence applications and the use of such results? Here again, the link between human interventions - or the absence of human interventions - with artificial intelligence systems in the global chain of services, products and outcomes provided to a person will play an important role in the determination of such liability. Among the questions that remain unanswered, could autonomous systems using artificial intelligence applications be “personally” held liable at some point? And how are we going to deal with potential legal loopholes endangering the rights and obligations of all parties interacting with artificial intelligence? In January 2017, the Committee on Legal Affairs of European Union (“EU Committee”) submitted a motion to the European Parliament which calls for legislation on issues relating to the rising of robotics. In the recommendations of the EU Committee, liability law reform is raised as one of the crucial issues. It is recommended that “the future legislative instrument should provide for the application of strict liability as a rule, thus requiring only proof that damage has occurred and the establishment of a causal link between the harmful behavior of a robot and the damage suffered by an injured party”.6 The EU Committee also suggests that the European Parliament considers implementing a mandatory insurance scheme and/or a compensation fund to ensure the compensation of the victims. What is next on the artificial intelligence front? While scientists are developing artificial intelligence at a speed faster than ever in many different fields and sciences, some areas of the law may need to be adapted to deal with associated challenges. It is crucial to be aware of the legal risks and to make informed decisions when considering the development and use of artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence will have to learn to listen, to appreciate and understand concepts and ideas, sometimes without any predefined opinions or beacons, and be trained to anticipate, just like human beings (even if some could argue that listening and understanding remain difficult tasks for humans themselves). And at some point in time, artificial intelligence developments will get their momentum when two or more artificial intelligence applications are combined to create a superior or ultimate artificial intelligence system. The big question is, who will initiate such clever combination first, humans or the artificial intelligence applications themselves? John McCarthy, What is artificial intelligence?, Stanford University. Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy, McKinsey Global Institute, May 2013. Alex Hern, Stephen Hawking: AI will be “either best or worst thing” for humanity, theguardian. Engene Borukhovich, How will artificial intelligence change healthcare?, World Economic Forum. Nevada Administrative Code Chapter 482A-Autonomous Vehicles, NAC 482A.010. Committee on Legal Affairs, Draft report with recommendations to the Commission on Civil Law Rules on Robotics, article 27. (2015/2103 (INL))

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  • Autonomous cars will shortly be on the roads in Montréal

    Autonomous cars have really taken off in the last few years, particularly due to the interest of both consumers and the businesses who develop and improve them. In this context, on April 5 and 10, 2017, the City of Montréal and the Government of Québec respectively announced significant investments in the electrification and intelligent transportation sector to make the Province of Québec a pioneer of that industry. Investments from the City of Montréal and the Government of Québec The City of Montréal intends to invest $3.6M toward the creation of the Institute on Electrification and Intelligent Transportation, created as a part of the Transportation Electrification Strategy developed to fight climate change and promote innovation. The creation of the Institute on Electrification and Intelligent Transportation is one of the ten strategic orientations that the Transportation Electrification Strategy puts forward. The City of Montréal explains that [TRANSLATION] “the Institute will rely on the collaboration of partners, including universities and the Innovation District, and on the availability of land near downtown Montréal in order to create a world-class site to develop, experiment and promote innovation and new concepts in the field of electric and intelligent transportation ”.1 The mission of the Institute is, among other things, to create a testing corridor and an experimentation area in downtown Montréal for autonomous vehicles. In addition, an autonomous shuttle project is already under way, involving “Arma” minibuses developed by Navya, a partner of the Keolis Group. These vehicles are automated at level 5, meaning that they are entirely automated. The first road test is anticipated to take place in the context of the International Association of Public Transport’s (UITP) Global Public Transport Summit, which will be held in Montréal from May 15 to 17, 2017. For its part, the Government of Québec has undertaken to invest $4.4M [TRANSLATION] “to support the electric and intelligent vehicles industrial cluster”2. This industrial cluster will be set up in spring 2017 and its business plan will be established by an advisory committee created for such purpose. [TRANSLATION] “The cluster will help position Québec among the world leaders in the development of ground transportation and their transition to an all-electric and intelligent transportation” stated Dominique Anglade, Minister of Economy, Science and Innovation and Minister responsible for the Digital Strategy. Issues related to driving autonomous vehicles in Québec Intelligent cars were introduced in the Québec market and have earned their place over the last few years. They are referred to as autonomous when they possess at least a “conditional” degree of automation, commonly referred to as level 3 on the scale of automation degrees.3 This level of automation allows for dynamic driving of the vehicle by its control system but requires the driver to remain available. Under the Québec Automobile Insurance Act4, the owner of an automobile is liable for the property damage caused by such automobile with some exceptions. This statute also provides for a no-fault liability regime allowing victims of a car accident to claim an indemnity for the bodily injuries they suffer. As to the Highway Safety Code5, it governs, among other things, the use of vehicles on public roads. To our knowledge, no legislative amendment has been proposed to this day to fill this legal void prior to autonomous vehicles appearing on the Québec roads. In this regard, it is appropriate to note that the Province of Ontario recently passed the Regulation 306/156, which outlines who may drive autonomous vehicles on Ontario roads and in which context. Comments Many questions remain unanswered as to the content of the projects and initiatives recently announced by the City of Montréal and the Government of Québec. This lack of information creates uncertainty as to the scope of specific regulations governing the use of autonomous vehicles in the Province of Québec which would possibly need to be passed. However, Ms. Elsie Lefebvre, Associate councilor for the City of Montréal, responsible for the Transportation Electrification Strategy, declared that [TRANSLATION] “there will be guidelines and the projects will be supervised to ensure that there is no danger on the road”, without giving details on the scope of such measures. In the wake of these announcements, many issues deserve to be discussed. What will be the degree of automation of the autonomous vehicles allowed to be driven in the Province of Québec? Who will drive these vehicles and who will insure them? Will special permits be required? Will these vehicles be allowed to be driven on public roads or exclusively on closed circuits? In the event of an accident, who will be held liable? What will be the legislative measures passed to adequately govern the use of these vehicles? Many questions remain and not many answers are provided for the time being. This is something to follow… Transportation Electrification Strategy 2016-2020, published by the City of Montréal. GOVERNMENT OF QUÉBEC, Information feed – “Québec annonce 4,4 millions de dollars pour soutenir la grappe industrielle des véhicules électriques et intelligents”, online. For more details, please consult the Need to Know newsletter, “Autonomous vehicles in Québec: unanswered questions”. Automobile Insurance Act, CQLR, c. A-25. Highway Safety Code, CQLR, c. C-24.2, art. 1. Pilot Project – Automated Vehicules, O Reg 306/15.

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  • The Supreme Court puts a break on civil actions brought following an automobile accident

    On March 24, the Supreme Court of Canada handed down an eagerly awaited decision, namely in Godbout v. Pagé.1 In this case, the victims of two different automobile accidents were suing third parties for events that occurred following their respective accidents. For the first victim, it was the medical team under whose care she was taken. For the second, it was the Attorney General of Québec, due to the time it took Sûreté du Québec officers to find the crashed vehicle he was in. Both victims claimed that the defendants had committed a fault which had caused them an additional and separate injury over and above the injuries resulting from the automobile accident, thereby entitling them to additional or complementary compensation, above what was paid to them by the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (“SAAQ”). The issue was thus whether the Québec Automobile Insurance Act (“AIA”) barred the civil actions of the victims. The Supreme Court, per Wagner J. and in a quasi-unanimous decision,2 answered in the affirmative: the victims’ actions against the third parties are not receivable. Here is the Court’s reasoning. The AIA applies in the event of bodily injury caused in an accident, namely any event in which damage is caused by an automobile. Following such an event, the compensation paid by the SAAQ “stands in lieu of all rights and remedies by reason of bodily injury and no action in that respect shall be admitted before any court of justice”.3 The Court’s decision reviews the ins and outs of the no-fault public automobile insurance plan and recalls that same must be given a large and liberal interpretation so that it may meet its objective. In other words, this plan was adopted to prevent victims of road accidents from having to go through the judicial system to obtain compensation for injury, whether caused in the accident or as a result of events subsequent to it: [...] provided that there is a plausible, logical and sufficiently close link between, on the one hand, the automobile accident and the subsequent events (in the context of these appeals, the fault of a third party) and, on the other hand, the resulting injury, the Act will cover the whole of the injury. Thus, the fact that the injury in question has an “aggravated” or “separate” aspect that can be attributed to events that occurred subsequently to the automobile accident is immaterial: those events will be deemed to be part of the accident, and therefore of the cause of the whole of the injury.4 In the case of both victims, the Court considers that the causal link required by the AIA exists, as their injury was “suffered [...] in an accident” within the meaning of this Act. The entirety of the compensation must therefore have the SAAQ as its sole source, regardless of the issue of fault by the third parties in question, whether the medical team or the Sûreté du Québec officers. The Supreme Court points out however that the application of this plan remains a question of logic and fact related to the circumstances of each case. Hence, it will be interesting to see whether, in years to come, a sufficiently distinctive situation will justify setting aside the prohibition against civil actions contained in the AIA. Godbout v. Pagé, 2017 SCC 18. Suzanne Côté J. is alone in dissent. Section 83.57 of the AIA. Paragraph 49 of the decision.

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  • Artificial Intelligence and the 2017 Canadian Budget: is your business ready?

    The March 22, 2017 Budget of the Government of Canada, through its “Innovation and Skills Plan” (http://www.budget.gc.ca/2017/docs/plan/budget-2017-en.pdf) mentions that Canadian academic and research leadership in artificial intelligence will be translated into a more innovative economy and increased economic growth. The 2017 Budget proposes to provide renewed and enhanced funding of $35 million over five years, beginning in 2017–2018 to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) which connects Canadian researchers with collaborative research networks led by eminent Canadian and international researchers on topics including artificial intelligence and deep learning. These measures are in addition to a number of interesting tax measures that support the artificial intelligence sector at both the federal and provincial levels. In Canada and in Québec, the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Program provides a twofold benefit: SR&ED expenses are deductible from income for tax purposes and a SR&ED investment tax credit (ITC) for SR&ED is available to reduce income tax. In some cases, the remaining ITC can be refunded. In Québec, a refundable tax credit is also available for the development of e-business, where a corporation mainly operates in the field of computer system design or that of software edition and its activities are carried out in an establishment located in Québec. This 2017 Budget aims to improve the competitive and strategic advantage of Canada in the field of artificial intelligence, and, therefore, that of Montréal, a city already enjoying an international reputation in this field. It recognises that artificial intelligence, despite the debates over ethical issues that currently stir up passions within the international community, could help generate strong economic growth, by improving the way in which we produce goods, deliver services and tackle all kinds of social challenges. The Budget also adds that artificial intelligence “opens up possibilities across many sectors, from agriculture to financial services, creating opportunities for companies of all sizes, whether technology start-ups or Canada’s largest financial institutions”. This influence of Canada on the international scene cannot be achieved without government supporting research programs and our universities contributing their expertise. This Budget is therefore a step in the right direction to ensure that all the activities related to artificial intelligence, from R&D to marketing, as well as design and distributions, remain here in Canada. The 2017 budget provides $125 million to launch a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy for research and talent to promote collaboration between Canada’s main centres of expertise and reinforce Canada’s position as a leading destination for companies seeking to invest in artificial intelligence and innovation. Lavery Legal Lab on Artificial Intelligence (L3AI) We anticipate that within a few years, all companies, businesses and organizations, in every sector and industry, will use some form of artificial intelligence in their day-to-day operations to improve productivity or efficiency, ensure better quality control, conquer new markets and customers, implement new marketing strategies, as well as improve processes, automation and marketing or the profitability of operations. For this reason, Lavery created the Lavery Legal Lab on Artificial Intelligence (L3AI) to analyze and monitor recent and anticipated developments in artificial intelligence from a legal perspective. Our Lab is interested in all projects pertaining to artificial intelligence (AI) and their legal peculiarities, particularly the various branches and applications of artificial intelligence which will rapidly appear in companies and industries. The development of artificial intelligence, through a broad spectrum of branches and applications, will also have an impact on many legal sectors and practices, from intellectual property to protection of personal information, including corporate and business integrity and all fields of business law. In our following publications, the members of our Lavery Legal Lab on Artificial Intelligence (L3AI) will more specifically analyze certain applications of artificial intelligence in various sectors and industries.

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  • The insured is responsible for the cost of bringing its building up to construction standards

    On December 19, 2016, the Alberta Court of Appeal allowed the appeal1 of the insurer which had excluded from its policy coverage the rebuilding costs associated with bringing the insured building up to by-law standards. The Court of Appeal unanimously maintained the exclusion for damages resulting from the latent defect or inherent vice (defects and deficiencies) in the building and rendered of no force or effect the exception extending the coverage to the rectification of building code deficiencies to bring the insured building into compliance with by-law requirements. The facts In March 2012, Economical Mutual Insurance Company issued a commercial policy to its insured, Inter-City, an auto body shop operating in a building which had been built in the 1950s. The relevant provisions of the policy were quoted as follows: “[6] The Policy contained two relevant exclusions under section IV of form 6557 as follows: 2. Perils excluded This Form does not insure against loss or damage caused directly or indirectly: … (M) proximately or remotely, arising in consequence of or contributed to by the enforcement of any by-law, regulation, ordinance or law regulating zoning or the demolition, repair or construction of buildings or structures, which by-law, regulation, ordinance or law makes it impossible to repair or reinstate the property as it was immediately prior to the loss or … This form does not provide insurance for: (O) wear and tear, gradual deterioration, latent defect, inherent vice, or the cost of making good faulty or improper material, faulty or improper workmanship, faulty or improper design, provided, however, to the extent otherwise insured and not otherwise excluded under this Form, resultant damage to the property is insured; [emphasis added] [7] On the other hand, form 6558 provided in relevant part as follows: This form provides the following extensions of coverage in Commercial Building, Equipment and Stock Form 6557. The limit for these extensions shall be in addition to the limits of coverage provided in section 1 of Form 6557. … 3. Contingent liability from enforcement of building by-laws: This form shall, as a result of a peril insured against, extend to indemnify the insured for: (a) loss occasioned by the demolition of any undamaged portion of the buildings or structures; (b) cost of demolishing, and clearing the site of any undamaged portion of the buildings or structures; or c) any increase in the cost of repairing, replacing, construction or reconstructing the buildings, or structures on the same site or on an adjacent site, of like height, floor area and style, and for the like occupancy; arising from the enforcement of the minimum requirements any by-law, regulation, ordinance or law which: (i) regulates zoning or the demolition, repair or construction of damaged buildings or structures; and (ii) is in force at the time of such loss or damage.” [emphasis added] In July 2012, heavy rainfall caused a storm sewer overflow which resulted in limited water damage to the wood frame building. The insurer indemnified its insured for emergency work ($6,793.83) and the repairs of the damage to the building ($16,040.98). During the investigation conducted after the loss, it was discovered that the structure of the building no longer complied with municipal by-laws in force as to construction standards. The municipality determined that the wood structure portion of the building had to be demolished and rebuilt according to the new construction standards in force. The rebuilding costs were assessed at $471,000. Position of the insured The policy covered the cost of replacing the non-compliant wood structure of the insured building. The insurance policy identified two separate insured risks, namely (1) the cost for repairing the damages caused by a storm sewer overflow, and (2) the rebuilding costs associated with rectifying the structural items which did not comply with the by-laws. The causal relationship between the damage caused by the overflow and the costs of rectifying the structural items which did not comply with the by-laws had no relevance as to their coverage. Decision in the first instance The court and the parties acknowledged that the non-compliant structural items of the building did not constitute damage resulting from the overflow and predated the issuance of the insurance policy. Form 6557 of the policy excluded the costs associated with bringing up to construction standards the insured building (gradual deterioration, latent defect, inherent vice). However, Clause 3 (C) of Form 6558 of the policy contained exceptions covering the cost for rectifying by-law noncompliance (enforcement of minimum requirements). The Court concluded that Form 6558 was not ambiguous and had to be interpreted according to the terms used. Accordingly, there was a coverage extension for damage resulting from a covered risk to include the cost of bringing the building up to by-law standards at the time of the loss. The damage resulting from an initially covered risk, said the Court, created an additional and independent covered risk, so that the costs of bringing the building up to the construction standards became an autonomous covered risk independent from the initial water overflow. The judgment of the Court of appeal The interpretation of a standardized insurance contract is an issue of law which allows a court of appeal to intervene (Ledcor Construction Ltd. v. Northbridge Indemnity Insurance Co., 2016 SCC 37, para 21-24). It was admitted that the building’s non-compliance with the by-laws had not been caused by the storm sewer overflow. The overflow, although it was a covered risk, had only triggered the discovery of the structural non-compliance of the building. To determine the scope of application of the exclusion and the exception, the Court of Appeal applied the reasonable expectations of the parties principle. It concluded that the parties could not reasonably expect that the costs for making good non-compliant structural items predating the loss would be included in the insurance coverage. The Court was of the view that the application of the reasonable expectations principle resolved the ambiguity of Clause 3 (C) of Form 6558. Therefore, it was not necessary to rely on the other interpretation rules such as the broad interpretation of the insurance coverage, the restrictive interpretation of exclusions, nor the interpretation in favour of the insured. The intent of the parties, as established in Form 6558, was to cover the rectification of non-compliant structural items if caused, as opposed to simply discovered, by the occurence of a covered risk. The latent defect or inherent vice (defects and deficiencies) of the insured building were specifically excluded by the clear language of Form 6557. To constitute an exception to this exclusion, the noncompliant structural items necessarily had to constitute a damage caused by the occurence of a covered risk. The Court thus refuted the conclusion of the trial judge according to which the rectification of noncompliant items of the building was an insured risk independent from the initial covered risk. Our view We note from the Roth judgment that the interpretation of a standardized insurance contract is an issue of law which allows a court of appeal to intervene using the correctness standard rule. In this respect, two contradictory lines of jurisprudence exist based on the nature of the question of the interpretation of a contract by an appellate court. According to the first, it is a mixed question of fact and law commanding deference from an appellate court. In such a case, the standard of review was that of palpable and overriding error. The second, considered an exception to the applicable principle for the interpretation of a standardized contract. This would thus constitute an issue of law for which the standard of review on appeal would be that of correctness. In the Ledcor case, the Supreme Court decided in favour of the correctness standard allowing an appellate court to review the interpretation of a standardized contract such as an insurance contract2. As to the interpretation of the insurance coverage of the policy at issue, the ambiguity of the scope of the exclusion and exception clauses must be resolved by taking into account the reasonable expectations of the parties. It seems fair, according to the Court, that an insurer would not be required to indemnify its insured for the cost of rebuilding a building and entirely bring it up to by-law standards following a minor loss which only uncovered pre-existing non-compliant items. To conclude otherwise would require the insurer to be responsible for any latent defect revealed by a loss, even if the loss is a covered risk. It would then be impossible for the insurer to assess the risk to be covered. Roth v. Economical Mutual Insurance Company, 2016 ABCA 399. Also see Fortier c. Société immobilière Bourg-Royal inc., 2017 QCCA 117; Parkhill Excavating Limited c. Royal & SunAlliance Insurance Company of Canada, 2016 ONCA 832, para. 19; Carter c. Intact Insurance Company, 2016 ONCA 917, para 32 in reference to the case of Ledcor Construction Ltd. c. Société d’assurance d’indemnisation Northbridge, above, on that point.

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  • The Supreme Court of Canada reinforces the protection of litigation privilege by elevating it to class privilege status

    Ten years after Blank v. Canada (Minister of Justice),1 the leading case regarding litigation privilege, the Supreme Court of Canada has seized the opportunity to reaffirm and expand on the principles set out in that important decision. Indeed, in its most recent case, Lizotte v. Aviva Insurance Company of Canada,2 rendered on November 25, 2016, Canada’s highest court clarified the limits and reinforced the scope of litigation privilege. It also closely considered what legislators would have to do to derogate from the application of this common law privilege which also applies under Québec civil law. The context This case originated in the context of an investigation by the assistant syndic of the Chambre de l’assurance de dommages of a claims adjuster subject to her powers of investigation in matters of professional conduct. Relying on section 337 of the Act respecting the distribution of financial products and services (the “Act”), which provides for the duty of an insurer to forward “any document or information” on the activities of a representative under investigation, the assistant syndic asked the Aviva insurance company to provide her with a full copy of the claim file held by the adjuster. Aviva opposed the request on the ground that some of the documents were protected by litigation privilege. Although the privilege issue later became moot since a settlement was reached in the litigation involving Aviva and its insured, the syndic nonetheless decided to file a motion for a declaratory judgment before the Court on the issue of whether the general wording of section 337 of the Act is enough to set aside litigation privilege. The characteristics of litigation privilege As stated in the Blank case, rendered by the Supreme Court in 2006, the purpose of litigation privilege is to ensure the efficacy of the adversarial process, by leaving the parties “to prepare their contending positions in private, without adversarial interference and without fear of premature disclosure”.3 Litigation privilege therefore creates an immunity from disclosure with respect to documents and communications whose “main purpose” is the preparation for litigation. Due to its origins, this privilege has often been conflated with solicitorclient privilege. However, the Blank case made a very clear conceptual distinction between these two notions. In Blank, the Supreme Court noted that “[t]hey often co-exist and one is sometimes mistakenly called by the other’s name, but they are not coterminous in space, time or meaning”.4 The Court also states that litigation privilege, “unlike the solicitor-client privilege, is neither absolute in scope nor permanent in duration”.5 The distinctions between these two concepts as identified in the Blank case are repeated in the Lizotte case: The purpose of solicitor-client privilege is to protect a relationship, while that of litigation privilege is to ensure the efficacy of the adversarial process; Solicitor-client privilege is permanent, whereas litigation privilege is temporary and lapses when the litigation ends; Litigation privilege applies to unrepresented parties, even where there is no need to protect access to legal services; Litigation privilege applies to non-confidential documents. In fact, contrary to solicitor-client privilege, confidentiality is not an essential condition of litigation privilege; Litigation privilege is not directed at communications between solicitors and clients as such. Despite the clear distinctions between these two types of privilege, the Lizotte case does point out their common characteristics, particularly the fact that they serve a common cause: the secure and effective administration of justice.6 The Court is then asked to address the issue of whether litigation privilege can be raised against third parties, particularly investigators. According to the Court, it would not be appropriate to exclude third parties from the application of this privilege or to expose this privilege to the uncertainties of disciplinary and legal proceedings which could result in the disclosure of documents that would otherwise be protected, even assuming that there is no risk that a syndic’s inquiry will result in the disclosure of privileged documents. Indeed, the mere possibility of a party’s work being used by the syndic in preparing for litigation could discourage that party from writing down what he or she has done.7 As a result, unless a third party can satisfy the conditions of a recognized exception to litigation privilege, such privilege can be raised against him or her. Finally, it is interesting to note that in the Blank case, the Court recognized that while solicitor-client privilege has benefited from a liberal interpretation, commensurate with its importance, the situation has been notably different for litigation privilege, the scope of which had to be adapted to the modern trend in the legislation and case law towards mutual and reciprocal disclosure, the hallmark of the judicial process.8 The recognition of a new class privilege However, this last remark, which could correctly be referred to as an obiter dictum, did not prevent the Supreme Court from pushing further the recognized protection of litigation privilege in the Lizotte case by elevating it to “class privilege” status, that is, a privilege with a nondisclosure presumption each time its conditions of application are met. This is to be contrasted with a privilege recognized on a case-by-case basis, whose application depends upon a specific analysis based on a four-pronged test, including a balancing of the interests involved. The Court states as follows: “[36] Thus, although litigation privilege differs from solicitor-client privilege in that its purpose is to facilitate a process — the adversary process (Blank, at para. 28, quoting Sharpe, at paras. 164-65) — and not to protect a relationship, it is nevertheless a class privilege. It is recognized by the common law courts, and it gives rise to a presumption of inadmissibility for a class of communications, namely those whose dominant purpose is preparation for litigation (Blank, at para. 60). [37] This means that any document that meets the conditions for the application of litigation privilege will be protected by an immunity from disclosure unless the case is one to which one of the exceptions to that privilege applies. As a result, the onus is not on a party asserting litigation privilege to prove on a case-by-case basis that the privilege should apply in light of the facts of the case and the “public interests” that are at issue (National Post, at para. 58).” To grasp the importance of the Lizotte case, one must understand that the law has recognized precious few of these so-called “class” privileges. Except for solicitor-client privilege, which is “the most notable example of a class privilege,”9the only other class privileges which we have encountered in the case law are police informer privilege,10 spousal privilege11 and litigation privilege.12 In the case of R. v. National Post, the Supreme Court even refused to recognize class status for the privilege of journalists’ confidential sources, noting that “[i]t is likely that in future such “class” privileges will be created, if at all, only by legislative action.” Exceptions to litigation privilege As with other class privileges, litigation privilege is subject to clearly defined exceptions, rather than a balancing of interests on a case-by-case basis. The Court has therefore decided that the recognized exceptions to solicitor-client privilege are also applicable to litigation privilege,13 that is, those exceptions related to public safety, the innocence of an accused, and communications of a criminal nature. There is also the exception to litigation privilege already recognized in the Blank case regarding the disclosure of “evidence of the claimant party’s abuse of process or similar blameworthy conduct.” Legislative exceptions to litigation privilege Although it is undeniable that litigation privilege does not benefit from the same status as solicitor-client privilege — a principle of fundamental justice and a “civil right of supreme importance in the Canadian justice system”14 — it nonetheless remains the case that it has been referred to as being “fundamental to the proper functioning of our legal system”15 since it is at the heart of our accusatory and contradictory system and because it promotes the search for truth by allowing the parties to adequately prepare for litigation. For this reason, the Court reminded us of the requirement whereby the modification or revocation of common law rules, which are of fundamental importance, requires that the legislator use clear and explicit language. As a result, a party cannot be deprived of the right to claim litigation privilege in the absence of a clear and explicit legislative text. In that respect, section 337 of the Act, on which the assistant syndic was relying, was not deemed to be sufficient to set aside the application of that privilege. Therefore, the Québec legislator, as well as the legislators of the other provinces and the federal legislator, will have to take note of this important decision and will likely be called upon to amend the wording of the general provisions regarding the production of documents where they do not specify that they apply to documents in respect of which litigation privilege, or any other privilege of a similar nature, may be relied upon. [2006] 2 S.C.R. 319 (“Blank”). 2016 SCC 52 (“Lizotte”). Blank, para 27. Id., para 1. Id., para 37. Lizotte, para 24. Id., para 52. Blank, para 60, 61. R. v. McClure, [2001] 1 S.C.R. 445, para 28. R. v. Basi, [2009] 3 S.C.R. 389, para 22. Canada Evidence Act, RSC 1985, c C-5, sec. 4(3); R. c. McClure, cited above, para 28. Sable Offshore Energy Inc. v. Ameron International Corp., [2013] 2 S.C.R. 623, para 12. Smith v. Jones, [1999] 1 S.C.R. 455, para 44. Canada (Attorney General) v. Chambre des notaires du Québec, 2016 SCC 20, para 5. Canada (Privacy Commissioner) v. Blood Tribe Department of Health, [2008] 2 S.C.R. 574.

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