Timeliness vs. Proportionality: Discussion on King’s Bench Rule 24.06(1) in Papasotiriou-Lanteigne v. Tsitso

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Article2023 | 09 | 06

Timeliness vs. Proportionality: Discussion on King's Bench Rule 24.06(1) in Papasotiriou-Lanteigne v. Tsitso

a wooden clock pointing to noon

In the recent Manitoba Court of King’s Bench case of Papasotiriou-Lanteigne v. Tsitso, 2023 MBCA 66, the Manitoba Court of Appeal dealt with yet another case that put the spotlight on the interaction between timeliness, proportionality, and the dismissal for delay under the Manitoba Court of King’s Bench Rules. In Tsitso, the Court of Appeal had the opportunity to provide specific guidance on the operation of Rule 24.06(1) of the Court of King’s Bench Rules: a rule that purports to preserve a Plaintiff’s ability to re-file their claim following a dismissal for delay in certain circumstances:

Not a defence

24.06(1)   The dismissal of an action for delay is not a defence to a subsequent action unless the order dismissing the action provides otherwise.

Background

In Tsitso, the action was dismissed for long delay at first instance before a Master of the Court of King’s Bench. There was effectively no dispute that three years had passed without a significant advance in the action. As a consequence, the material issue was whether Rule 24.06(1) precluded the Plaintiff from bringing a subsequent action based on the same facts and matters at issue in the action that had been dismissed for delay.

The Master’s decision was appealed to Suche J. on three grounds, including that Rule 24.06(1) was ultra vires the rule-making authority of the Court and if not ultra vires, that Suche J. should order that the dismissal was a defence to the subsequent action in any event.

Suche J. declined to find that Rule 24.06(1) was ultra vires the rule-making authority of the Court, but did bar the subsequent action on the basis that Rule 24.06(1) did not apply to dismissals for long delay under Rule 24.02. In her finding, Suche J. observed that from her perspective, there may have been an oversight by the legislature in failing to repeal the rule when the dismissal for delay regime was significantly revised in 2017. Suche J. concluded that applying Rule 24.06(1) to the long delay rule would undermine the purpose of the rule and would be inconsistent with the state of the law in the area. As a consequence, Suche J. dismissed the appeal.

Deciphering Rule 24.06(1)

Unsurprisingly, the operation of Rule 24.06(1) emerged as a fundamental element of the Court of Appeal’s decision, sparking a discussion on its intent and significance. The Court of Appeal engaged in a detailed analysis of this rule’s historical context and purpose.

The Court of Appeal rejected the notion that the inclusion of Rule 24.06(1) in the King’s Bench Rules was an oversight or a drafting error. Drawing from the principles of statutory interpretation, the Court emphasized that legislative text is generally presumed to be carefully composed and accurate. The Court of Appeal referred to sections 91 to 93 of the Court of King’s Bench Act, C.C.S.M c C280 which outline a comprehensive process for the enactment and amendment of the King’s Bench Rules. This process involves extensive consultation and rigorous scrutiny. In the Court of Appeal’s view, this underscored the deliberate and intentional nature of Rule 24.06(1)’s inclusion during the amendment process.

While exploring Rule 24.06(1), the Court of Appeal highlighted its underlying rationale. The Court explained that the rule sought to strike a balance between the need for timely resolution of legal matters and the recognition that justice should not be sacrificed for efficiency. The Court of Appeal emphasized the rule’s essential objective: to provide a mechanism for dismissing a claim for delay where appropriate while also ensuring that such dismissals do not undermine the principles of proportionality and timeliness.

By retaining Rule 24.06(1) in the amended King’s Bench Rules (which came into effect on January 1, 2018) the legislative drafters reaffirmed its importance in the ongoing legal landscape. The Court of Appeal’s decision underlined that Rule 24.06(1) was not a mere remnant of previous iterations, but a provision that was consciously preserved in order to address the potential injustices that the court arises upon a dismissal for delay.

Notwithstanding the foregoing, the Court of Appeal was careful to highlight the importance of timeliness and proportionality in civil justice. This is consistent with the Court’s dicta in decisions such as Ali and Buhr. The Court of Appeal continued to emphasize the necessity for timely access to justice and maintaining the ability for the Court of King’s Bench Rules to prevent inordinate, unreasonable, and inexplicable delays in the civil justice system.

The Court of Appeal explained that while Rule 24.06(1) provides a residual discretion to allow the filing of fresh action subsequent to a dismissal for delay, the discretion should only be exercised for a reason of substance, not a speculative or fanciful reason. The Court of Appeal explained that fairness is about more than just a Plaintiff’s interest, no matter how serious the claim. The Court of Appeal indicated that a defendant is entitled to closure and should not be twice vexed by the same matter without good reason. The Court of Appeal held that in most cases, it would be contrary to the public interest for the same matter to be repeatedly litigated, even where the limitation period has not expired.

A Pragmatic Conclusion

The Court of Appeal ultimately concluded that the motion’s judge had erred in her interpretation of Rule 24.06(1). The Court of Appeal explained the court below had been required to consider whether the discretion under the rule should be exercised to order that dismisses the claim for delay with prejudice to the Plaintiff’s ability to file a fresh action. That said, the Court of Appeal held that despite this error of law, there was no principled reason to exercise the discretion to permit the filing of a fresh claim in this instance. As a consequence, the Plaintiff’s appeal was dismissed.

In the intricate dance between the values of timeliness, proportionality, and access to justice, Papasotiriou-Lanteigne v. Tsitso, 2023 MBCA 66, offers a thought-provoking glimpse into the complexities of statutory interpretation. As the court, analyzed the interactions between Rule 24.06(1) of the Court of King’s Bench Rules and the broader principles of civil law, it provided clarity on the deliberate inclusion of Rule 24.06(1) and its operation within the broader dismissal for delay framework.

The Papasotiriou case reminds us of the delicate balance between efficiency and fairness. How will the legal system continue to embrace timely access to justice without prejudicing a party’s right to due process on its merits? As legal landscapes evolve, these questions linger.


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About the Author
Simon Garfinkel
Simon Q.K. Garfinkel
Associate

About the author
Matthew Nordlund
Matthew Nordlund
Associate