IBM Canada, former worker square off over settlement agreement as court bemoans ‘disproportionate’ waste of judicial resources

The IBM logo on a stadium. Photo: Mikita Yo/Unsplash

The Ontario Superior Court of Justice has extended the deadline for cross-examinations in a wrongful dismissal case involving a dispute over a settlement agreement, but it noted that the case has “consumed judicial resources that are disproportionate to the complexity of the matter and the monetary amounts at stake.”

The plaintiff, ML, a former employee of IBM Canada, claims wrongful dismissal and alleges that a settlement was reached during a mediation in 2023.

The motion to enforce this settlement is scheduled for Feb. 8, 2024. However, IBM contests the enforceability of the settlement, leading to ongoing legal proceedings.

During a third case conference, the central issue was whether parties could conduct cross-examinations on affidavits related to the plaintiff’s motion. The plaintiff argued against the need for cross-examinations, citing Rule 76 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, which limits such examinations in Simplified Procedure actions. In contrast, IBM pointed to a previous court order, allowing cross-examinations and set a deadline for their completion.

Justice Corthorn extended the deadline for these cross-examinations from Nov. 30, 2023, to Jan. 10, 2024. This extension aims to provide sufficient time for both parties to prepare and serve transcripts of the cross-examinations, and for the plaintiff’s counsel to prepare the required factum.

The decision delves into the complexities of Rule 76 and whether the plaintiff’s action falls under the Simplified Procedure. The court acknowledged the disagreement over this classification but did not make a definitive ruling on the matter, emphasizing that cross-examinations are permissible in certain circumstances under Rule 76.

The ruling also highlighted the two-step approach required for motions to enforce settlements, underscoring the necessity for both parties to present their best arguments, which includes the potential for cross-examinations.

Justice Corthorn’s pointed the finger at the plaintiff over the disproportionate consumption of judicial resources in this case. The court urged compliance with orders for an efficient and cost-effective resolution.

Finally, the court ruled that IBM was successful in maintaining the right to conduct cross-examinations and ordered the plaintiff to pay the costs of the case conference. The scale, quantum, and timing of these costs will be determined by the judge presiding over the upcoming motion.

For more information, see Fraser v. IBM Canada Limited, 2023 ONSC 7009 (CanLII)

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