Good Faith in Contractual Relations Professor Rosalie Jukier Formation Continue February 24, 2015 Good Faith 1. What is it that lawyers need to know about the duty of good faith in: A. Quebec B. Common law Canada 2. Examine good faith through the lens of
two important and recent decisions Bhasin v. Hrynew 2014 SCC 71 (Common Law) Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corp v. Hydro-Quebec 2014 QCCS 3590 But is it also 3. To see the evolutionary capacity of law and the use of creativity in legal argumentation 4. To see the cross-fertilization of ideas:
A. as between legal traditions (civil and common law) and B. as between legal systems within a single legal tradition (the potential influence of German civil law on Quebec civil law) Outline A. Discussion of recent Supreme Court case of Bhasin v. Hrynew which purportedly brings in a general duty of good faith in contract performance in common law Canada (Prof Jukier) B. Discussion of good faith in Quebec including the recent Quebec case of Churchill Falls v. Hydro Qubec (Prof
Cumyn) Mise en contexte Quebec position on good faith: Trilogy of Supreme Court cases (Que) pre-dating the CCQ: Banque National v. Soucisse 1981 2 SCR 339 Banque National du Canada v. Houle 1990 3 SCR 122 Banque du Montral v. Bail 1992 2 SCR
554 Good Faith in Quebec Soucisse (1981): SCC (Beetz, J) used former art. 1024 CCLC (now 1434 CCQ) to imply, via equity an obligation of good faith into the performance of the contract The effect was to add an obligation on the part of the Bank (which was nowhere explicit in the contract) to disclose to heirs a suretyship to which they would otherwise be held Failure to do this resulted in a fin de non recevoir
Good Faith in Quebec Houle (1990): SCC (LHeureux-Dub, J) took Soucisse a few steps further: 1. Brought in the notion of abuse of rights making a party potentially liable in damages even if that party performed a contractual term to its letter 2. In that sense, good faith could, in effect, override an express contractual provision (demand loan becomes loan that requires reasonable notice)
3. Confirmed that good faith requires the reasonable exercise of contractual rights (not simply malicious bad faith) Good Faith in Quebec Bail (1992): SCC (Gonthier, J) extends the duty of good faith in the performance of a contract to the formation of a contract Codification: CCQ brings in 3 relevant provisions that codify jurisprudence: Article 1375: The parties shall conduct themselves in good faith both at the time the
obligation is created and at the time it is performed or extinguished Articles 6 and 7: Article 7 confirms that the doctrine of good faith includes both exercising a right with intent of injuring another or in an excessive and unreasonable manner Upshot of Good Faith in Quebec Seen as a robust doctrine Has gone so far as to imply an obligation to cooperate between franchisor/ee (Provigo Distribution v. Supermarch ARG  RJQ 47 (C.A.)
Applies in all contractual contexts, even commercial (unusual for protective doctrines) How much further can it go? Can it require parties to renegotiate contracts? Churchill Falls? Common Law? Summed up by Angela Swan: Viewed as some kind of embarrassing faux pas or social disease Most academic commentators were either against, or extremely wary, of
the doctrine It is worth adding a word about an implication which is not made as a matter of course in English law that contractual duties will be performed in good faith Stephen Smith, Atiyahs Introduction to the Law of Contract Common Law? Michael Bridge wrote an article entitled, Does Anglo-Canadian Contract Law Need a Doctrine of Good Faith? and concluded, generally, no
Shannon OBryne (U of Alta) and John McCamus (Osgoode) are common law academic proponents of good faith But the Canadian position was piecemeal, unsettled and unclear (Cromwell, J. in Bhasin v. Hrynew Why the resistance? Uncertainty Autonomy of the Will and Freedom of Contract
concern that [it] will bring an unattractive degree of uncertainty to the law (McCamus) and increase the cost of litigating contract disputes Judicially imposing this obligation would permit courts to interfere with the express terms of a contract (Transamerica Life v. ING Canada 2003 68 OR 457 (C.A.)) Defeat the essence of negotiation It will hobble the marketplace (Iacobucci, J in Martel Building Ltd v Canada 2000 SCC 60) Result
Good Faith applied in the common law only in exceptional circumstances: In certain kinds of contracts (eg insurance, employment, franchise) In certain kinds of situations Where parties must cooperate to achieve objects of the contract Where one party exercises discretionary power under the contract Where one party seeks to evade contractual duties
For example McKinlay Motors Ltd. v. Honda Canada (1989) 46 B.L.R. 62 (Nfld SCTD) McKinlay Motors has a long-term Honda car dealership Contract gave Honda discretion in the allocation of cars
Honda proceeded to execute a downward allocation spiral because it wasnt satisfied with the level of pizzazz of the dealership Held (Trial level Nfld): Honda acted in bad faith in the exercise of its discretion to allocate cars There is an implied termthat parties act toward each other in their business dealings in good For example Gateway Realty v. Arton Holdings (1991) 106 NSR (2d) 180
2 competing shopping centres Zellers is anchor tenant of Gateway Centre Arton convinces Zellers to relocate to its Centre Zellers has 17 years left on its lease in Gateway Centre and has assignment of lease clause Zellers assigns lease to Arton and Arton proceeds to leave premises vacant! Obligation not to exercise the contract in a harmful manner Contracting parties must respect community standards of honesty, reasonableness or fairness Bhasin v. Hrynew
November 2014 B: enrollment director for Can-Am since 1989. The parties have a commercial dealership agreement (3 year term but renewable unless 6 months notice given to terminate) H: a competitor enrollment director who wants to capture Bs lucrative market share H proposes a merger which B rejects H and Can-Am work in tandem Can-Am appoints H to be trading officer to review
enrollment directors compliance with securities law (B alleges this is a conflict of interest and refuses to cooperate) Can-Am misled B about its ultimate intention (to merge the 2 businesses) and when B refused to allow H to audit his records, Can-Am gives notice to terminate the What is wrong with that? Trial Judge: Contract was analogous to a franchise contract and therefore court could apply duty of good faith. Here, there was a lack of good faith because the exercise of the non-renewal clause was done in a dishonest and misleading manner and for an improper purpose Alberta C.A. reversed:
No general duty of good faith Court cannot imply a duty that goes against an express term of the contract (entire agreement clause) Motive for triggering non-renewal was not restricted under the contract Supreme Court of Canada 1. Acknowledges good faith contractual
performance as a general organizing principle in Canadian common law 2. Recognizes a common law duty which applies to all contracts to act honestly in the performance of contractual obligations 3. This will be: a. just b. accord with the reasonable expectations of commercial parties and c. wont detract from commercial certainty English Law: Yam Seng Pte Ltd v. International Trade Corp  EWHC 111 (QB)
Never underestimate the influence of football In the contract of distribution of Manchester United branded fragrances Leggatt, J stated: the traditional English hostility towards a doctrine of good faith in the performance of contracts, to the extent that it still persists, is misplaced Refusing to recognize the doctrine is swimming against the tide (civil law countries and the U.S.) There is a general norm = expectation of honesty No improper, commercially unacceptable or unconscionable conduct. Unpacking the Decision What exactly does Bhasin v Hrynew do?
Academic opinion is divided Some herald it as a landmark decision that radically changes the law for the better Others are less favourable. One academic said, we see good faith raising its ugly head again, courtesy of the SCC in Bhasin v Hrynew, and trying as ever to commingle focused argument with vacuous verbiage Others limit its scope to the narrow duty of honesty Questions
What is the scope of the new general duty of good faith? On what basis does it make its way into Canadian common law? How to meet arguments of autonomy of the will and freedom of contract? Can parties contract out of it? How will it not bring uncertainty into the law? Scope of Good Faith
Cromwell, J is careful to limit the scope of his judgment Incremental change Highly context specific Focus on dishonesty: there is a general duty of honesty in contractual performance Divided Academic Opinion Dont be a scumbag and behave decently (Merely) a general duty of honesty
It only requires that parties must not lie or otherwise knowingly mislead each other about matters directly linked to the performance of the contract (Justice Cromwell) Compare with Quebecs Duty of Good Faith While honesty is part of the duty, it is not limited to it Houle and article 7 CCQ: extends to
unreasonable behaviour Arguably the facts of Soucisse could fall within the dishonesty standard Hard to construct the facts of Houle in a similar way (actions were sudden, impulsive and harmful but not dishonest) Legal Basis of the Duty of Good Faith Quebec: implied (by law) obligation of the contract, now codified Common Law: unclear Is it a duty imposed by law? Or is it one that is implied in fact according to the reasonable
intentions of the parties? Implied Obligation versus Imposed Duty Yam Seng decision in the UK: basisis the presumed intention of the parties Parties bind themselves in order to co-operate to their mutual benefit According to one Canadian commentator: its impossible to conceive of any
contractual relation as not being infused with obligations of good faith Bhasin v. Hrynew Commercial parties reasonably expect a basic level of honesty and good faith in contractual dealings (para 60) On the other hand this should not be thought of as an implied term, but a general doctrine of contract law that imposes as a contractual duty a minimum standard of honest contractual
Freedom of Contract concerns Note difference in approach of LHeureuxDub, J. in Houle and Cromwell, J. in Bhasin v. Hrynew While the doctrine may represent a departure from the absolutist approach of previous decades, consecrated in the well-known maxim "la volont des parties fait loi" (the intent of the parties is the governing factor), it inserts itself into today's trend towards a just and fair approach to rights and obligations LHeureux-Dub in Houle Freedom of Contract concerns [T]he duty of honest performance interferes very little with freedom of
contract, since parties will rarely expect that their contracts permit dishonest performance of their obligations Cromwell, J in Bhasin v. Hryew (para 76) So can parties contract out of the duty? Alberta CA held this duty was contrary to the express terms of the parties contract and that they implicitly contracted out of it. Cromwell (SCC): I would not rule out any role for the agreement of the parties in influencing the scope of honest performance in a particular
context Ability to contract out Cromwell (SCC): parties should be free to relax the requirements of the doctrine as long as they respect its minimum core requirements However a generically worded entire agreement clause does not suffice Leggett, J.: in practice it is hardly conceivable that contracting parties would attempt expressly to exclude the core requirement to act honestly. Yam Seng (Cromwell, J. concurs)
Concerns of Uncertainty There is nothing unduly vague or unworkable about the concept. Its application involves no more uncertainty than is inherent in the process of contractual interpretation Yam Seng Cromwell in Bhasin: no risk to commercial certaintythe duty is clear and easy to apply AND take comfort from experience of the civil law of Quebec andthe United States Comparative Law Justification
Both Yam Seng (UK) and Bhasin v. Hrynew look to foreign law Sources: Civil law countries/Quebec and the U.S. Yam Seng: the Common Law is swimming against the tide Bhasin v. Hrynew: explicit reference to Quebec (code and jurisprudence) and U.S. Comparative law provides comfort
Experience in Quebec and the U.S. shows that even very broad conceptions of the duty of good faith have not impeded contractual activity or contractual stability Result: Can-Am was held to have breached its agreement when it failed to act honestly with Mr. Bhasin in exercising the non-renewal clause Cross-Fertilization
Quebec civil law gives Court confidence to move the common law forward Raises a number of counter-currents On the one hand, we want to maintain the distinctiveness of Canadas legal traditions (message of the Nadon Reference) One of the key take-aways from Justice LeBels 14 years on the Cross-Fertilization On the other hand, while the duality of Canadas legal traditions should be maintained and jealously protected, it need not prevent each of the traditions from learning from the other.
Rather, careful and respectful comparative judicial methodology can only influence the development of the law in a positive way. Value of Dialogue between Legal Traditions LeBel, J. recognized in Globe and Mail (2010 SCC) that certain areas of law are more conducive to convergence given their globalized context Why should parties be allowed to act differently in the performance of their contract in different Canadian provinces? Bhasin is a good example of a decision that seeks
to preserve the duality of Canadas legal traditions while at the same time acknowledging the mutual influence these traditions can have on each other. Legal Creativity: Using Good Faith in the Face of No Imprvision Can the duty of good faith in contract performance extend as far as requiring parties to renegotiate their contract in the face of extreme changing circumstances?
Churchill Fall v. Hydro Quebec German courts have accepted this scope for good faith. French and Quebec academics have as well What will Quebec courts ultimately say?
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