In what will no doubt be a seminal decision going forward the Alberta Court of Appeal (ABCA) has made it easier to obtain summary judgment in Alberta. Summary judgment is an avenue available to civil litigants to have a matter dealt with without having to have a full trial.
Windsor v. Canadian Pacific Railway Ltd. 2014 ABCA 108 applies a recent decision of the Supreme Court of Canada, Hryniak v. Mauldin, 2014 SCC 7, which considered rules that govern summary judgment in Ontario. The SCC opined that summary judgment was a legitimate alternative to a full trial. The SCC described it as a less expensive and efficient method of obtaining access to justice. The ABCA in Windsor agreed.
In Windsor the court held that summary judgment was available to litigants who showed that there is “no genuine issue requiring trial”. The ABCA went on to say that the legal test to determine whether there is a “genuine issue requiring trial” would be whether or not the chambers Judge would be able to reach a fair and just determination on the merits of the summary judgment motion by examining the evidence to see if a disposition that is fair to both parties can be made on the existing record.
The decision shows a marked departure in the view that has been held regarding summary judgment. No longer is it a remedy that is used to weed out vexatious and meritless lawsuits. It appears as though the courts are viewing summary judgment as a tool to increase access to justice and reduce the cost of litigation.