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Torts - Effect of Administrative Procedures

Lam v. University of Western Ontario (Ont CA, 2019)

In this case the Court of Appeal reversed the dismissal of a student's contract and tort action against a university. The lower court found that the presence of academic administrative proceedings barred the action, but the Court of Appeal found that the academic context of the case was irrelevant and that it should have been assessed on basic principles of pleadings of contract and tort:
[33] The divergence between the motion judge’s approach and that required by Gauthier and Jaffer is made clear by the following passages from Jaffer:
[29] The Superior Court’s jurisdiction over the action in this case is thus not ousted by the raising of issues relating to the university’s academic function. As in Gauthier, the action is not simply an indirect attempt at judicial review, as the appellant does not seek to reverse decisions with respect to his grades or compel the university to readmit him. His claim is that the university owed him various obligations in both contract and in tort, and that its failure to meet those obligations has caused him pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. Such claims fall within the jurisdiction of the Superior Court and may proceed if they are properly pleaded and tenable in law and disclose a reasonable cause of action.

[31] The real issue in this case is not whether the dispute is academic in nature, but rather whether the pleadings support a cause of action in either contract or tort.
[34] What was said in Jaffer can be said of this case, notwithstanding that Jaffer involved a pleadings motion in which the facts alleged were taken to be true, and this case was a summary judgment motion in which factual issues were found to exist that require a trial to resolve. The real issue the motion judge should have addressed was not whether the dispute was academic in nature but whether the genuine issues of fact he found existed would, if resolved at trial as the appellant claims they should be, make out a cause of action in contract for which damages were claimed.

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