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Abuse of Process - Case Management

. Appleyard v. Zealand

In Appleyard v. Zealand (Ont CA, 2022) the Court of Appeal considered it's inherent case management jurisdiction and it's jurisdiction to address abuse of process:
[54] Ms. Appleyard alleges that it was improper for the motion judge to order her to bring any claims within ninety days of October 1, 2019 because it shortened the six-month limitation period under s. 61(1) of the SLRA to bring a dependant support claim under s. 58.

[55] I would not accede to this argument. Whether or not any limitation period has or has not expired is not the issue in this case and is irrelevant because of Ms. Appleyard’s vexatious conduct that amounts to an abuse of process. Litigants cannot indefinitely hold the court process hostage. What is in issue here is the reasonableness of the exercise of the motion judge’s inherent power to control and foreclose Ms. Appleyard’s ongoing abuse of the court’s process to which considerable deference is owed on appeal, absent reversible error. I see none here.

[56] Ninety days was one last grace period by the court allowing Ms. Appleyard to bring her claims for dependant support and other relief in the requisite form so they could be properly adjudicated. To hold otherwise would ignore the belaboured procedural history of this proceeding beginning when she gave notice of her proposed claims to the estate trustee in July 2013. What has followed is an odyssey of court proceedings where, despite direction from the court as early as December 19, 2013, Ms. Appleyard has failed to bring her dependant support claim or any other claim in proper form or to support her proposed claims with any cogent evidence.

[57] Nor is this a case of form over substance, as Ms. Appleyard submits. It was necessary for Ms. Appleyard to bring her claims for dependant support and other relief in the requisite form so that it could be properly adjudicated. As is apparent from my earlier narrative of the proceedings, while loosely focussed on property and support issues, Ms. Appleyard’s various claims have shifted over the years, unsupported by any cogent evidentiary foundation. In the circumstances of this case, without the procedural rigour imposed by the form of an issued application, the estate trustee did not know the case the estate had to meet nor was she in a position to respond in any meaningful way. This has been tremendously unjust to the estate trustee and the beneficiaries and has resulted in egregious delay and expense. The fair and effective administration of justice required Ms. Appleyard to put forward her claims in a timely and coherent manner in accordance with the SLRA and the Rules of Civil Procedure.

[58] The motion judge made no error in requiring Ms. Appleyard to advance her application for dependant support including any other claim within ninety days following October 1, 2019, in order to comply with this court’s January 4, 2019 direction and prevent further abuse of the court’s process by the vexatious manner in which she has conducted herself in these proceedings.

[59] The court has a broad discretion to control its process and to make appropriate orders where, as is the case here, proceedings have been conducted in a vexatious manner that amounts to an abuse of process: Peoples Trust Company v. Atlas, 2019 ONCA 359, at paras. 5, 9. The court’s inherent and statutory powers to prevent an abuse of process are necessary to uphold the proper administration of the judicial system. As Blair J.A. stated (in dissent but not on this point), at para. 55, in Foy v. Foy (No. 2), 1979 CanLII 1631 (ON CA), [1979] O.J. No. 4386, (1979) 26 O.R. (2d) 220 (C.A.), leave to appeal refused, [1979] 2 S.C.R. vii:
The concept of abuse of process protects the public interest in the integrity and fairness of the judicial system. It does so by preventing the employment of judicial proceedings for purposes which the law regards as improper. These improper purposes include harassment and oppression of other parties by multifarious proceedings which are brought for purposes other than the assertion or defence of a litigant’s legitimate rights. Such abuse of process interferes with the business of the Courts and tarnishes the image of the administration of justice.
[60] Acceding to Ms. Appleyard’s argument would permit her to endlessly re-litigate issues and delay these proceedings. Again, that, in my view, would amount to a clear abuse of process. As Lauwers J.A. said in Wallace v. Crate’s Marine Sales Ltd., 2014 ONCA 671, at para. 22: “[T]here comes a time, in short, when enough is enough, and the civil justice system will no longer tolerate inordinate and inexplicable delay.” While this statement was made in the context of an appeal from a dismissal of an action for delay, its underlying rationale that the integrity of the civil justice system and trial fairness preclude a litigant from inordinately delaying her claim by failing to comply with procedure, directions and court orders applies here. This is particularly apposite in estate proceedings where the expeditious administration of an estate is in the interests of justice: Omiciuolo, at para. 25; Euring Estate v. Registrar of the Ontario Court (1997), 1997 CanLII 1080 (ON CA), 31 O.R. (3d) 777 (C.A.), at p. 792.

[61] As a result, there was nothing unfair or incorrect in the motion judge’s order that Ms. Appleyard bring any application for dependant support and other relief within ninety days of October 1, 2019. Ms. Appleyard’s claim for dependant support falls squarely within the provisions of s. 58(1) of the SLRA, which provides that “Where a deceased, whether testate or intestate, has not made adequate provision for the proper support of his dependants or any of them, the court, on application, may order that such provision as it considers adequate be made out of the estate of the deceased for the proper support of the dependants or any of them.” Moreover, Ms. Appleyard has known since 2013 that she must assert a claim for dependant support by way of an application under the SLRA. She has steadfastly and inexplicably refused to do so, notwithstanding the generous extensions of time and opportunities that have been granted to her.


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Last modified: 06-08-22
By: admin