Quebec man “returned” from his “legal” death

Sometimes a person who has been legally declared dead is not dead.

In a remarkably rare turnabout, a Canadian insurer successfully convinced Quebec Superior Court to annul a judicial declaration of death of a Montreal man who disappeared in 2008 after reliable signs of life were uncovered, freeing it of its obligation to pay $500,000 in life insurance.

“There is not much that has been written about such cases because they are exceptional,” noted Josianne Gelfusa, a Montreal notary with D & G Notaries, who co-wrote a chapter on absence and death for the book Droit des personnes physiques (Law of natural persons). “So there is not much case law to assist judges.” Continue reading “Quebec man “returned” from his “legal” death”

Mandatory retirement clauses breach Quebec Charter, rules court

Professional services firms that have mandatory retirement policies and provisions that require partners to divest their ownership shares solely on the basis of age are discriminatory and in breach of the Quebec Charter of human rights and freedoms held Quebec Superior Court in a ruling that has the legal community buzzing over its implications.

In a case that pitted a Montreal municipal and labour and employment law firm against its founder, the decision by Quebec Superior Court Justice Stéphane Lacoste is expected to have wider repercussions than the thorny issue of mandatory retirement, according to legal observers. Following the decision in DHC Avocats inc. c. Dufresne, 2022 QCCS 58, typical arrangements made by professional services firms in succession planning such as “unpartnering” or changing the status of their senior partners while still allowing them to work in the firm may be called into question, added legal experts. Continue reading “Mandatory retirement clauses breach Quebec Charter, rules court”

Notary found guilty of misappropriation

A Quebec notary with drug problems and in financial straits was found guilty of misappropriating more than $50,000 from a client by a disciplinary committee, the eighth case heard by disciplinary councils over the past year dealing with pilfering by legal professionals, something that has been described as the profession’s dirty little secret.

Daniel Girouard, who was admitted to the Chambre des notaires in 1986, was found guilty of breaching articles 1, 13, and 56 (7) of the Code of ethics of notaries — of failing to act with dignity, abiding by the strictest rules of integrity, and misappropriation. Girouard misappropriated $59,250 held in his trust account, and used it to pay his drug debts.

In an email to an investigator, Girouard said:

“I know anyway that I will be struck off. I am addressing you in order to minimise the misery of the parties in this case. As for the consequences for me vis-à-vis the Chamber and the tax authorities, I take responsibility.”

The disciplinary committee will determine his sanction at a later date. But it’s moot. Girouard has resigned.

The victim was reimbursed by the professional corporation’s indemnity fund.

Court deems COVID-19 measures a “misfortune”

COVID-19 is still wreaking havoc on people’s lives.

But it’s heartwarming to see that the courts are taking into account hardship.

In a brief bankruptcy ruling in Syndic de Deutsch, 2022 QCCS 222, Quebec Superior Court held that:

[14] There is no doubt that the measures put in place by the federal and provincial governments are a “misfortune” (“un malheur”) and the Court must consider even sua sponte the application of Article 175 of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act for bankruptcies filed after March 2020.

[15] In this particular case, the requirements of Article 175 of the Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act are not met however I consider the economical context.

[16] Neither the Superintendent of Bankruptcy nor any creditors have opposed the discharge of the Bankrupt.

[14] The bankruptcy and Insolvency Act’s objective is the social and economical rehabilitation of an honest but unlucky debtor and I hereby grant Ms. Irit Deutsch an Absolute Discharge from her bankruptcy. (my emphasis).

Religious corporation loses battle over perpetual contracts

In 1945 a religious corporation acquired from the City of Sherbrooke a piece of land, adjoined to a property it already owned, to provide a resting place for weary nuns, or “religieuses fatiguées.”

It paid $200. But the contract includes a clause by which the City obtains the privilege to repurchase the land at the price sold in the event that the religious outfit decides to resell it.

Les Filles de la Charité du Sacré-Coeur-de-Jésus launched an action to have the right of pre-emption be declared null and void or, in the alternative, that a time limit be set for its lapse.

The Quebec Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal. Heeding guidance by the Supreme Court in Uniprix inc. v. Gestion Gosselin et Bérubé inc., 2017 SCC 43, the Appeal Court reaffirmed that the only perpetual contracts that are invalid as contrary to public policy are those where perpetuity “undermines” fundamental values of society.

“It is true that the appellant cannot freely dispose of this land, since it must allow the respondent to buy it if it decides to sell it, but this is not shocking,” said the Appeal Court in Filles de la Charité du Sacré-Coeur-de-Jésus c. Ville de Sherbrooke, 2022 QCCA 112.

“The appellant has, to date, used the land in the manner it intended at the time of purchase and can continue to do so since it is only if it decides to sell it that it will have to allow the respondent to buy it back. It is true that this limits one of the components of her right of ownership, in this case abusus, but this limit does not undermine a fundamental value of society, especially since many other dismemberments of the right of ownership are authorized in Quebec law.”

Insurer loses battle against Quebec tax authorities

Insurers are required to collect tax on insurance premiums, and remit it to the provincial government, within a certain allotted time.

When clients sent a cheque or made an electronic payment to pay their premiums before it was due on the effective date of the policy,  one insurer accepted the sums as soon they were received but did not yet remit to the tax authorities because the policy was not yet in force.

The Quebec Court of Appeal nixed that practice.

The insurer, as per s. 527 of the Act respecting the Québec sales tax (Act), must in its capacity as agent account for the tax collected in the preceding calendar month at the end of the month, held the Appeal Court in Agence du revenu du Québec c. Assurances générales Desjardins inc., 2022 QCCA 57. Whether or not the premium is due does not change the fact that the insurer has collected the amount of tax on insurance premium paid by the insured and must therefore remit it to the Minister, added the Appeal Court.

“There is no doubt that, where the premium is paid on the day the contract comes into force, the tax on insurance premiums collected must be remitted to the Minister in accordance with the terms of section 527 of the Act.

“The issue at stake here is that the customer voluntarily fulfills his obligation, the payment of the amount corresponding to the premium, which includes the tax on insurance premiums, before the arrival of the suspensive term agreed between the parties and that the (insurer) collect this amount although they are technically not yet entitled to it.”

On top of that, under article 2398 Civil Code, this contract is formed as soon as the application is accepted by the insurer, even if it takes effect at a later date, added the Appeal Court. The enforceability of the reciprocal obligations of the parties is then simply suspended until the date fixed, concluded the Appeal Court.

Justiciability a major hurdle for climate change lawsuits, assert legal experts

A proposed climate change class action suit by a Montreal environment group against the federal government was denied certification by the Quebec Court of Appeal after it held that it was not justiciable, the latest in a series of climate change litigation cases that have been thwarted by the justiciability doctrine, prompting questions over the successful viability of using broadly framed Charter arguments in climate justice suits in Canada.

Continue reading “Justiciability a major hurdle for climate change lawsuits, assert legal experts”

Quebec appeal court serves timely reminder over linguistic rights

Less than a year after delivering a stinging rebuke to the Quebec government over recurring systemic unmitigated delays in securing trial transcripts that disproportionately affect English-speaking appellants, the Quebec Court of Appeal served a timely reminder over the importance of linguistic rights after it ordered a new trial for a convicted drug trafficker whose right to be tried in English was violated.

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