In a recent decision, the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta ruled against Dragon HCPS Inc. in a case brought by RT and his company for wrongful dismissal.
Dragon had requested to transfer the trial from the Alberta Court of Justice, Civil Division to the Court of King’s Bench, along with filing a new claim alleging negligence by RT during his employment. However, the court refused Dragon’s motion, stating that the trial should proceed as scheduled.
RT filed a claim in the Court of Justice on May 11, 2021, alleging wrongful termination on March 22, 2021. The claim sought damages of just over $70,000 but was limited to the court’s jurisdictional limit of $50,000.
Dragon defended the claim and, in its response, accused RT of negligence in providing services, including bookkeeping and tax-related errors. Dragon did not file a counterclaim in the Court of Justice proceedings.
After the pleadings were closed on July 12, 2021, the matter went through an unsuccessful mediation and a pretrial conference on June 20, 2022. On Aug. 4, 2022, Dragon filed an application to adjourn the trial, transfer RT’s claim to the Court of King’s Bench, and file a draft counterclaim in that court.
The draft counterclaim sought damages below $50,000 and other losses related to RT’s alleged negligent work.
Dragon argued that the claims and counterclaims were closely linked and that transferring and consolidating them would prevent duplicated trials.
Justice Burt of the Alberta Court of Justice, Civil Division dismissed Dragon’s application. She noted that the Court of Justice’s objective is to handle small matters efficiently and fairly, and Dragon’s last-minute request to complicate the proceedings would go against this objective.
Justice Burt considered the absence of any previous counterclaim and concluded that adding it at such a late stage would be unfair to the parties involved and burden the court system.
Dragon appealed Justice Burt’s decision, which resulted in a stay of proceedings in the Court of Justice trial.
The court reviewed Dragon’s argument, which claimed that transferring the case to the Court of King’s Bench was mandatory when the Court of Justice’s jurisdiction was exceeded.
However, the court disagreed, stating that the Court of Justice had jurisdiction over the entire dispute as framed by the pleadings. Dragon’s request to transfer RT’s claim and file a counterclaim in the Court of King’s Bench was seen as an attempt to address its own procedural shortcomings.
The court found that Justice Burt properly weighed the potential inefficiencies and risks of having separate trials for Dragon’s negligence claims and RT’s original claim.
The court also considered the impact on RT’s case and the potential costs and resources wasted by adjourning the trial.
The court upheld Justice Burt’s decision, stating that Dragon’s request to transfer and consolidate the cases would be unfair and contrary to the efficient administration of justice.
The court recognized the related nature of the claims but found that the balance of prejudice favored RT. Therefore, Dragon’s appeal was dismissed, and costs were awarded to the respondents.
For more information, see Dragon HCPS Inc v Turcan & Associates Ltd, 2023 ABKB 367 (CanLII)