LIMITATIONS AND JOINT AND SEVERAL LIABILITY. Stephen R. Moore Blaney McMurtry LLP

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1 LIMITATIONS AND JOINT AND SEVERAL LIABILITY Stephen R. Moore Blaney McMurtry LLP June 23, 2006

2 Limitations and Joint and Several Liability Table of Contents Introduction...1 The Limitations Act, Introduction...1 The Basic Limitation Period...3 The Ultimate Limitation Period...5 Contribution Claims...6 Transition...8 Tolling Agreements Record Retention Joint and Several Liability Introduction Reform Mary Carter and Pierringer Agreements The Legal Underpinnings of Mary Carter Agreements Disclosure Practical Considerations Pierringer Agreements

3 Introduction Limitations and Joint and Several Liability The intent of this paper is to provide an overview of the provisions of the new Limitations A ct, 2002 and outline the history and significance of the joint and several liability rule as it applies to tort litigation in Ontario. Neither of these topics is particularly exciting but both must be understood thoroughly by claims examiners and their counsel. Changes in the Limitations A ct, 2002 oblige claims examiners and defence counsel to take positive steps to preserve rights of contribution against co-defendants and potential third parties. Prior to the enactment of the new Limitations A ct rarely did claims examiners or defence counsel need to concern themselves with limitation periods for contribution claims. As will be discussed below, both insurers and defence counsel will now need to maintain tickler systems to avoid missing these limitation periods. It is also important to have a firm grasp on the rules for joint and several liability. The concepts are not knew but the appearance of Mary Carter and Pierringer Agreements has made a thorough understanding of these rules essential for both claims examiners and counsel defending claims on behalf of deep pocket defendants such as municipalities. This paper should provide you with a basic working knowledge of these two topics. Hopefully, it will allow you to avoid the pitfalls of the new limitations legislation and provide you with the ability to utilize Mary Carter and Pierringer Agreements to the advantage of your insureds. The Limitations Act, 2002 Introduction Prior to January 1, 2004 there were a myriad of limitations periods that applied to a variety of tort actions. For example, the Highway Traffic Act imposed a two year limitation period on damages occasioned by a motor vehicle, a one year limitation period applied to actions against doctors for medical malpractice while a two year limitation period applied to claims against hospitals. There was a 3 month limitation period against municipalities and the provincial government for failure to keep a highway or sidewalk in good repair and a six year

4 limitation period that applied to most occupiers liability claims. Some of the limitation periods that applied in this province were almost impossible to find. For example, under the provisions of the Railroads A ct, which had not been consolidated since the revised statutes of Ontario in 1950, a one year limitation period was imposed on actions arising out of injuries occurring on subways. For years, limitation periods were assumed to run from the date of the accident or error giving rise to the claim. Therefore, the limitation period for motor vehicle accidents ran from the date of the accident and expired two years after the accident had occurred. In the mid to late 1980s the Supreme Court of Canada and Ontario Court of Appeal decided a series of cases that effectively stripped many limitation periods of their vitality. The Supreme Court held that, in many cases, the limitation period did not begin to run until the plaintiff discovered that it had suffered damage. The seminal case was the Ontario Court of Appeal s decision in the Consumers Glass case which allowed that company to sue those responsible for the design and construction of a building that collapsed many years after it was constructed. This case essentially meant that for architects, engineers and construction companies there was no real limitation period that they could rely upon. The principle of discoverability was thus born. Another decision held that, in most cases, limitations did not run against minors until they reached their majority. An even later decision was prepared to treat claims under Bill 59 as governed by two limitation periods, one for economic loss and one for non-pecuniary general damages. It was possible for a plaintiff to discover that he or she had an economic loss claim before discovering that his or her injuries were permanent and serious. By the late 1990s not only was the public faced with a bewildering assortment of limitation periods but those limitation periods were subject to so many exceptions that it was impossible for most companies to know how long they should even retain their files. After a number of judicial requests for legislative intervention, the Ontario government enacted new regime for limitations and this regime came into force on January 1 st, This paper will focus only on the Limitations A ct, 2002 which deals with most of the limitation periods that the average tort claims examiner and defence counsel will encounter. I should warn you that 2

5 this legislation is complex and confusing and, in my opinion, not particularly well drafted. I anticipate years of litigation over the meaning of a number of its sections. The Basic Limitation Period Instead of myriad of limitation periods, the new act creates one basic limitation period of two years. No claim may be commenced after the second anniversary after it was discovered. In the simplest of cases a person who fell in a parking lot on January 15, 2006 and was injured would be obliged to commence his or her action on or before January 15, 2006 (unless the second anniversary fell on a holiday). There are significant exceptions to this basic limitation period which will be discussed below. However, many of the old special limitation periods are now gone. These include all of the limitation periods referred to previously (however, the notice requirements for non-repair of a highway still apply but the action can be commenced up to two years after the accident). That brings us to what is meant by discovered. This is defined in the act. A claim is discovered on the earlier of the day when the claimant actually knew or a person with the claimant s abilities and in the circumstances of the claimant ought to have known all of the following: (a) (b) (c) that injury, loss or damage has occurred; that the injury loss or damage was contributed to by an act or omission; that the act or omission was that against whom the claim is made; and (d) that, having regard to the nature of the injury, loss or damage, a proceeding would be an appropriate means to seek to remedy it. It will be presumed that the claimant knew all of the above on the day that the act or omission took place unless the contrary is proved. The concept of discovery can make this new limitation period very difficult to apply to real world situations. It now appears that one has to take into account the plaintiff s actual circumstances in determining when the limitation period begins to run for that plaintiff. For example, if the plaintiff was depressed after an accident it may well be that such a plaintiff 3

6 will be excused from making appropriate enquires for a period of time after an accident and thus the two year limitation period could be significantly lengthened. It is item (d) which causes me the most concern. I can envision this provision being used to justify starting a claim after other avenues of resolution have been exhausted. For example, one could argue that a plaintiff did not realize that a proceeding was an appropriate remedy until negotiations had been attempted. This again could lengthen the limitation period. I note that (d) does not say that a proceeding it the only appropriate method for seeking to remedy the wrong. I would argue that this means that a plaintiff is not entitled to wait until they have exhausted every non-litigious method for seeking redress before the limitation period begins to run. However, there is no case law which interprets this provision so its actually meaning will not become clear for some time. Incidentally, it should be noted that section 11 suspends the limitation period when the parties have agreed to third party resolution of the dispute. This could involve mediation or arbitration. The suspension runs from the date the agreement to third party resolution is entered into until the claim is resolved, the date the attempted resolution process is terminated or the date one party withdraws from or terminates the agreement. If the limitation period is close to expiring, then you may wish to consider whether it makes sense to agree to third party resolution until after the limitation period has actually expired. However, given the rules for discoverability it is often difficult to know when the limitation period will expire. You should also ensure that there is a clear mechanism in any agreement for third party resolution to be terminated. You do not want an agreement that cannot be withdrawn from as this may extend the limitation period indefinitely. Additionally, the two year limitation period does not run against a minor or a person incapable of commencing a proceeding because of his or her physical, mental or psychological condition provided that the person is not represented by a litigation guardian. In one Supreme Court of Canada decision the court excused a plaintiff from commencing an action late, even though the claim was discovered, because she felt that it was more important to get well than to commence litigation. This provision insofar as it refers to psychological condition probably incorporates the views of the Supreme Court of Canada 4

7 in that case. It is presumed that a person is capable of commencing a proceeding unless the contrary is proved. If one is represented by a litigation guardian, then the criteria referred to above from section 5 of the Act apply as if the litigation guardian was the person with the claim. The act contains a provision which allows defendants to apply to the court to appoint litigation guardians for minors and persons incapable of commencing proceedings. The intent of the section is to start the limitation period running against such persons by means of the appointment of a litigation guardian. I will not go into the details of this very cumbersome and complex process as I have serious doubts that it will ever be successfully utilized by defendants. If the claim is one based on assault or sexual assault the limitation period does not run during any period of time when the claimant was incapable of commencing a claim because of his or her physical, mental or psychological condition. All claimants are entitled to such a suspension of the running of the limitation period if they can prove that they are suffering from such a condition. However for assault claims, it will be assumed, subject to proof to the contrary, that the claimant was incapable of commencing a proceeding sooner than it was if one of the parties to the assault was in an intimate relationship with the claimant or if the claimant was dependant on one of the parties to the assault financially or otherwise. If it is a sexual assault, it will be presumed, subject to proof to the contrary, that the claimant was incapable of commencing the proceeding sooner than it was. This provision can significantly extend the two year basic limitation period that applies for assault and sexual assault cases. A potential defendant may also send a notice to a potential claimant, other than a minor or person who is incapable of commencing a claim, which advises the potential claimant that the person may have a claim against the potential defendant. Such a notice may be considered by a court in deciding whether the limitation period has begun to run. It would be a very unusual case where a potential defendant would give such a notice. The Ultimate Limitation Period 5

8 The act provides for what it calls an ultimate limitation period. Since the concept of discoverability has the potential to extend the limitation indefinitely, the legislature has capped that extension. Regardless of the actual date of discovery of the claim, the ultimate limitation period prevents a claimant from commencing a claim after the 15 th anniversary following the act or omission. Accordingly, if we had a building that was built in 2004 and the roof collapsed in 2022, the owner of the building could not sue for the collapse as the act or omission occurred more than 15 years before the collapse. Incidentally, this is essentially the fact situation in the seminal Court of Appeal decision in Consumers Glass. Under the new act, the claim of Consumers Glass would be statue barred. Of course there are exceptions, even for the ultimate limitation period. It does not run against a minor or person incapable of commencing a proceeding because of a physical, mental or psychological condition. The onus is on the person with the claim to establish that such a condition exists. It does not run during the time that the defendant willfully conceals the claim or misleads the plaintiff about the claim. There is a list of claims that no limitation period runs against. The most important of these is undiscovered environmental claims. Contribution Claims Prior to January 1, 2004, claims based on the Negligence A ct for contribution and indemnity were rarely dismissed because of a missed limitation period. For all intents and purposes, section 8 of the Negligence A ct permitted a claim for contribution or indemnity to be brought at any time prior to judgment or settlement and for up to one year after such judgment or settlement. Additionally, the case law indicated that the commencement date for the running of a contribution claim was from the date the plaintiff obtained a judgment against the defendant. Accordingly, defendants rarely had any limitation issues to be concerned with and were usually only concerned with limitation periods in respect of subrogated claims. That has all changed under this new legislation. Now there is a two year limitation period and the legislation deems the act or omission for both the basic and ultimate limitation periods to have commenced on the day the claim is served on the defendant. In most cases this results in a two year limitation period that runs from date the claim is served upon the 6

9 defendant. All crossclaims and third party proceedings should be commenced within this timeframe. However, this time limit can be extended to the earlier of 15 years after service of the claim or the discovery of the claim against the party indemnity is sought from. The legislation has effectively made two changes to the prior law. It has created a limitation period that defendants must be concerned with when there was no effective limitation period before the legislation took effect. It has also changed the commencement date for the running of the limitation period for contribution claims from the date of judgment against the defendant to the date the statement of claim is served on the defendant. This new limitation period requires changes to claims handling by both claims personnel and defence counsel. Both claims examiners and defence counsel must now create a tickler system to ensure that they do not miss this limitation period. Blaney McMurtry LLP created such tickler system which went into operation on January 1, Whenever a new claim comes into the office, the lawyer in charge must indicate on the file opening sheet what the contribution limitation period is. To be conservative our tickler assumes that the limitation period will expire 2 years after the statement of claim is issued (as we often do not know when it was served upon the insured). We receive electronic warnings of the impending limitation period beginning 3 months prior to its expiry. A tickler clerk monitors the limitation periods and ensures that the lawyer in charge either commences a proceeding within the 2 year time limit or advises that no such proceeding needs to be commenced. When we receive these reminders we review the file again with a view to determining whether we should be commencing additional crossclaim or third party proceedings. You will receive a call from us if there is any entity that we have not claimed contribution and indemnity from that we either should commence such a claim against or, at least, we should consider commencing a claim against. Insurers need to create their own tickler systems to keep track of the limitation periods for contribution claims. The most dangerous situations for claims personnel involve waivers of defence. If your insured is served with a statement of claim, then the time for commencing a crossclaim against a co-defendant or a third party claim against a non-party has probably commenced to run. If you obtain a waiver of defence and sit on the file for two years (which can easily happen with claims brought by infants), then it will be too late to 7

10 commence any contribution claims. Such files must be sent to defence counsel well in advance of the expiry of the two year time limitation period to provide them with time to commence all appropriate contribution proceedings. It is easier for lawyers to tickle these limitation dates as we almost always receive a copy of the statement of claim when the file is assigned. Insurers need to establish a protocol that will ensure that when any statement of claim comes in the claims examiner is obliged to create a tickler. If you already have a system for noting when a potential claim turns into a litigated claim, then the system should be modified to oblige the claims examiner to note the contribution limitation period. We would urge you to have an electronic reminder system that notifies claims personnel of these tickler dates. We would also urge you to have a person or persons placed in charge of this electronic system to ensure that the ticklers are not ignored or missed because people are away or the files have been reassigned. Frankly, this last section contains the most important and the most practical advice in this entire paper. I should also point out that both claims examiners and defence counsel will need to watch for missed limitation periods by co-defendants and those who third party your insureds. Transition There are transition provisions in the legislation that are designed to determine whether a claim is governed by the old legislation or the new legislation. They are confusing, poorly drafted and almost assuredly will be the subject of considerable litigation. I will briefly describe these rules but you really need to consult counsel in any case where you have any concerns regarding the applicability of the old or new legislation. The transition rules apply to acts or omissions that occurred before January 1 st, 2004 and for which no proceeding has been commenced prior to January 1 st, There has already been litigation regarding the meaning of no proceeding has been commenced. For the moment, it would appear that the proceeding must be against the proposed defendant. For example, a crossclaim commenced against some other party prior to January 1 st 2004, could not be counted as a proceeding and thus take the claim outside of the transition provisions. 8

11 If the transition rule applies, then if the old limitation period has expired no proceeding shall be commenced. In other words, if the claim was already statute barred it will remain statute barred. If the old limitation period has not expired and there is no limitation period under the new legislation (for undiscovered environmental claims for example), then there is no limitation period that applies to the claim. If the old limitation period has not expired and there is a limitation period under the new legislation if the act or omission had occurred after January 1, 2004, then if the claim was undiscovered the new legislation applies as if the act or omission occurred on January 1, 2004 and if it was not discovered, then the old limitation period applies. This provision has already caused some problems. In one case, the act took place more than 15 years before it was discovered in The plaintiff argued that since it was discovered in 2004, the act or omission was deemed to have occurred on January 1, 2004 and the claim was still in time. The court refused to apply this reasoning and concluded that the claim, being more than 15 years old, was out of time because of the provision regarding ultimate limitation periods. If there was no limitation period under the old legislation but there would be if the act or omission occurred after January 1 st, 2004, then if it was discovered after January 1 st, 2004 the new act applies as if the act or omission occurred on January 1 st, If it was discovered before January 1 st, 2004, then there is no limitation period. It is this transition rule that causes difficulty with pre-2004 actions with potential contribution claims. Given that the limitation period commencement date has changed for contribution claims and that for Negligence A ct claims it is arguable that section 8 effectively eliminated limitation periods for contribution claims, one might argue that no limitation period applies to contribution claims which were discovered prior to January 1 st, If the claim is discovered after January 1 st, 2004, then the defendant has 2 years from the date of discovery to commence the contribution claim. In light of the earlier case I referred to it is unclear if the 15 year ultimate limitation period runs from January 1 st, 2004 or from the actual date of the act or omission. Alternatively, if there was a previous limitation period for contribution claims, then it applies to claims discovered prior to January 1 st, However, it is unclear whether that limitation period continues to be suspended by the pre-2004 rules which governed the commencement date for the running of the contribution claim or 9

12 by section 8 of the Negligence A ct. These questions are even more complex and confusing than this paragraph makes them appear. We were concerned that some older claims might have their contribution claims expire on December 31 st, Accordingly, we reviewed all of our old files in the fall of last year to consider whether a contribution claim should be brought before the end of There are also special transition rules for assault and sexual assault. Frankly, these provisions are also difficult to reconcile and I will not attempt to do so in this paper. Tolling Agreements So-called tolling agreements appear to be prohibited by the legislation. Clearly any agreement made to reduce the length of a limitation period after January 1 st, 2004 is prohibited. Tolling agreements generally extend limitation periods to allow parties to negotiate settlements without actually commencing litigation. These also appear to be prohibited by the legislation. There was a bill introduced before Christmas which would have permitted tolling agreements and other agreements between commercial entities to vary limitation periods prescribed by the legislation, but it has not yet become law. Record Retention One question that often comes up is how long a party should retain a file. That question was impossible to answer prior to January 1 st, 2004 because there was no cap on discoverability. In some respects that question is somewhat less difficult to answer now. For the vast majority of torts, the ultimate limitation period will expire 15 years after the act or omission occurred. The cases indicate that this ultimate limitation period will apply to any claim discovered after January 1 st, Therefore, if an act or omission occurred on or before January 1 st, 1989, it will be defeated by the ultimate limitation period. Under the old law the vast majority of tort claims were governed by a limitation period that was six years or less. Therefore, if the claim was discovered before January 1 st, 2004, the limitation period for the claim will expire on or before January 1, 2010 and the claim must be served on or before July 1, This suggests that after July 1, 2010 it will be safe to dispose of records or files that are more than 15 ½ years of age. 10

13 Of course, this approach will not work in all cases. The limitation periods under the new legislation for claims involving minors and incapable persons are suspended during their minority or incapacity. Claims involving assault and sexual assault are also suspended in many circumstances. Finally, there is a list of claims that have no ultimate limitation period whatsoever and these include undiscovered environmental claims. Nevertheless, a good working rule is to retain files for 15 ½ years after July 1, Judgment will need to be exercised to determine whether some records should be retained for longer periods. Joint and Several Liability Introduction Joint and several liability or, as it is sometimes referred to, the 1% rule is the bane of minimally liable deep pocket defendants such as municipalities. The 1% rule obliges a defendant, which is only 1% at fault, to pay the plaintiff s entire judgment. If that defendant is unable to collect on its contribution claim (often because the co-defendant is impecunious), then it is the defendant that bears the loss not the plaintiff. Before outlining how the rule works a brief discussion of the history of the rule would be in order. Prior to the enactment of the Negligence A ct in 1930 in Ontario, the rules governing the apportionment of fault in tort were significantly different than they are today. At common law there was a distinction between joint tortfeasors and several tortfeasors. Joint tortfeasors were person who jointly engaged in a common enterprise that caused harm to the plaintiff. For example, a landlord and a lodger jointly search for a gas leak using an open flame and the lodger s flame causes and explosion. Both are considered to have engaged in a joint tort. Several tortfeasors are persons who engage in independent acts of negligence that cause the same damage. A good example would be two cars colliding and causing injury to a pedestrian or a passenger. At common law, joint tortfeasors were jointly and severally liable to the plaintiffs for the damage they caused. The injured person could sue them jointly or separately for the entire loss and could execute the full judgment against any one of the joint tortfeasors. The 11

14 plaintiff was not permitted, however, to recover more than his or her entire loss. Several tortfeasors were severally liable for all of the damage they caused. They could not be sued in the same action but could all be sued in separate actions. Again, the plaintiff could not recover an amount on all of the judgments that exceeded his or her entire damages. Concurrent and several tortfeasors had no right of contribution as between themselves at common law. Accordingly, if the first tortfeasor was 10% at fault for the accident and paid all of the plaintiff s damages, then it could not recover the remaining 90% of that amount from its co-tortfeasor. The so-called 1% rule applied at common law but was even more draconian than it is now because the tortfeasor who paid the judgment had no right of contribution from its co-tortfeasor. It didn t matter if the co-tortfeasor had assets there simply was no mechanism that allowed such recovery. The final rule that was different at common law concerned contributory negligence. At common law if the plaintiff was even 1% at fault for his or her own injuries, then the plaintiff was barred from recovering anything from the defendants. The Negligence A ct has changed these rules considerably. First, contributory negligence no longer bars a plaintiff s claim. The damages of the plaintiff are simply reduced to the extent that the defendant was negligent. Second, the Act states that both joint tortfeasors and several tortfeasors (often referred to as concurrent tortfeasors) are jointly severally liable to the plaintiff and that each of them is liable to make contribution and indemnify each other in the degree in which they are respectively found to be at fault or negligent. This section permitted concurrent tortfeasors, for the first time, to obtain contribution from other concurrent tortfeasors. As the law now stands, concurrent tortfeasors are each liable to pay the plaintiff s entire judgment. However, if they do so, they are entitled to seek contribution from other concurrent tortfeasors. In some cases, that right will be a hollow one. For example, if a person is catastrophically injured in a single vehicle collision accident which is 90% the fault of the driver of the vehicle and 10% the fault of the municipality for failing to maintain the road, both the driver and the municipality are liable for 100% of the plaintiff s damages. However, if those damages, for example, are assessed at $6 million, and the driver only has 12

15 $1 million of insurance, then the municipality will be obliged to pay the plaintiff $5 million notwithstanding that it was only 10% at fault. Although the municipality should only have paid $600,000 and has the right to recover the $4.4 million overpayment from the driver, that judgment is worthless if the driver has no assets other than the $1 million insurance policy. It should be noted that under certain pieces of legislation the joint and several liability rule has been abrogated. For example, under Ontario s workers compensation legislation, a worker is generally not entitled to recover anything in a tort action from another worker, his or her employer or the employer of any other worker. The legislation has been interpreted as mandating that the liability of any other defendants is reduced by the negligence of the worker s employer and that of other workers and their employers. A similar approach was taken to the liability of unprotected defendants under the OMPP. Under that regime unprotected defendants, such as municipalities, were only severally liable for the damage they caused if the protected defendants were immune to suit. Therefore, if a case did not pierce the threshold under the OMPP a municipality would only pay the amount of the plaintiff s damages reduced by the negligence of all of the protected defendants. A similar approach was taken under Bill 164 for a plaintiff s pecuniary losses. A more complicated approach has been taken under Bills 59 and 198, which takes and entire paper to explain. A full explanation of this regime can be found under Articles insurance at Reform There have been complaints over the years from deep pocket defendants which seem to routinely get burned by the 1% rule. The provincial government and municipalities have been the most vocal group seeking reform of the rule. Generally, the reform requested is that the each defendant would be severally liable only for the damage it caused. Therefore, if a municipality was 10% at fault it would only pay 10% of the damages. Any inability to find defendants or to obtain money from them would be the plaintiff s problem. 13

16 While this approach to apportionment would certainly assist some deep pocket defendants in some situations, it is not a panacea. If Ontario adopted this reform, then plaintiffs would be left with no choice but to sue every single person who might be partly at fault for the plaintiff s injuries. As the law now stands, a plaintiff who knows that his or her damages will assess at a value less than the insurance carried by a substantially at-fault tortfeasors will often elect to only sue that tortfeasor. If the proposed reform was enacted all potentially liable tortfeasors would need to be sued. Let us return to the earlier example involving a municipality that was found to be 10% at fault for an accident. If the at-fault driver had $10 million of liability coverage, then the plaintiff would probably choose not to sue the municipality and recover all of his or her damages from the driver. If the law was reformed, the plaintiff would be obliged to sue the municipality or risk a less than a full recovery of his or her damages. On large losses, the reform would assist municipalities but this savings might be lost due to the fact that municipalities will be obliged to respond to many more claims that they do currently. Mary Carter and Pierringer Agreements 1 The Legal Underpinnings of Mary Carter Agreements Mary Carter and Pierringer Agreements are designed to change the exposure of a settling defendant from joint and several liability to several only. I will begin by discussing Mary Carter Agreements. Mary Carter Agreements take their name from the American case, Booth v. Mary Carter Paint Co. 2. The utility of using a Mary Carter Agreement arises when a plaintiff has sued more than one jointly and severally liable defendant and one or more of those defendants wish to settle with the plaintiff but one or more of the others do not. Since the defendants who wish to settle are often subject to a claim for contribution from the remaining tortfeasors, they cannot simply remove themselves from the action by settling with the plaintiff. The 1 Much of this part of the paper is taken from a paper that Miriam Tepperman of our office and I wrote several years ago So. 2d 8 (Fla. App. 1967) [hereinafter Booth]. 14

17 contribution claim allows the remaining defendants to continue to pursue the settling defendants at trial for any portion of the judgment which is ultimately paid by the remaining defendants but which the court attributes to the liability of the settling defendants. Thus, while a defendant may settle with a plaintiff, a simple payment by the settling defendant to the plaintiff does nothing to protect the settling defendant from the expense of litigating the contribution claims. Additionally, it does not necessarily cap the settling defendants contribution to the ultimate judgment that the plaintiff will receive at trial. A Mary Carter Agreement attempts to provide this protection by addressing the potential contribution claim of the remaining defendants within the context of the settlement arrangement between the plaintiff and the settling defendants. 3 The essential ingredients of an American Mary Carter Agreement are as follows: 1) the settling defendants guarantee a minimum recovery to the plaintiff; 2) the exposure of the settling defendants is capped; 3) the settling defendants remain in the lawsuit; 4) the settling defendants liability for damages reduces in direct proportion to any increase in the liability of the non-contracting defendant s liability; 5) the agreement remains a secret. 4 The Mary Carter Agreement in Canada differs from the original Mary Carter Agreement, since Canadian law requires immediate disclosure of the agreement. 5 While the classic form of the Mary Carter Agreement might contain all the remaining features, there is no rule that all of these features are required. The most common form of the agreement contains only the first 3 Barbara Billingsley, Margetts v. Timmer Estate: The Continuing Development of Canadian Law Relating to Mary Carter Agreements Alberta Law Review, (1998) 36 Alta. L. Rev. (No. 4) Roger G. Oatley, The Mary Carter Agreement: A Powerful Strategy for Settlement presented at the Advocates Society (Ontario) conference Practical Strategies for Advocates VII January 23-24, Roger G. Oatley, The Mary Carter Agreement: A Powerful Strategy for Settlement presented at the Advocates Society (Ontario) conference Practical Strategies for Advocates VII January 23-24,

18 three features: a minimum recovery for the plaintiff, a cap for the settling defendant, and a provision enabling the settling defendant to remain in the lawsuit in the hope of recovering some of the damages or costs from the non-settling defendants. Indeed no two Mary Carter Agreements are the same. The only limitation on the features of these agreements is the needs of the contracting parties and the imagination of their counsel. 6 It appears to be commonly accepted that Mary Carter Agreements may take a variety of forms. The terms of the agreements in Margetts v. Timmer Estate 7 were: (1) without any admission of liability, the settling defendant would pay the plaintiffs a set some of money as compensation for their damages; (2) the settling defendant would be at liberty to pursue the plaintiffs actions arising from the accident as against the non-settling defendant; (3) the settling defendant would be at liberty to pursue its own claim for contribution and indemnity as against the non-settling defendant; (4) the plaintiffs would hold harmless the settling defendant as against any claims for contribution by the non-settling defendant, meaning that the non-settling defendant would only be pursued by or on behalf of the plaintiff on the basis of several, rather than joint and several liability; (5) henceforth any legal costs incurred by the plaintiffs in prosecuting their claims against the non-settling defendant would be paid by the settling defendant; (6) the settling defendant would hold harmless the plaintiffs against any costs awarded against the plaintiffs in favour of the non-settling defendant; 6 Roger G. Oatley, The Mary Carter Agreement: A Powerful Strategy for Settlement presented at the Advocates Society (Ontario) conference Practical Strategies for Advocates VII January 23-24, (1996), 192 A.R. 42, [1996] A.J. No. 842 (Q.B.), affirmed by [1999] A.J. No (Alta. C.A.) [hereinafter Margetts] 16

19 (7) any finding of liability at trial against the non-settling defendant or any award of costs against the non-settling defendant would be applied for the sole and exclusive benefit of the settling defendant. While the settlement agreements in the Margetts case did not contain all of the elements of the original Mary Carter Agreement, the agreements were similar to the original Mary Carter Agreement in that they allowed one defendant to achieve a settlement with the plaintiff by structuring the settlement arrangements in a manner designed to cap the settling defendant s liability exposure and to protect the settling defendant from a contribution claim by the nonsettling defendant. 8 The actual intent of the agreement in Margetts is not entirely clear from the report of its contents or the comments of the courts. On its face it appears to provide for a final recovery for the plaintiffs from the settling defendants. It then permits the settling defendants to pursue both their contribution claims and the plaintiffs claims against the non-settling defendants. This differs from the usual contribution claim pursued after settlement under the provisions of the Negligence A ct 9 in one very important detail. In a claim under the Negligence A ct, the settling defendant can only recover contribution from the non-settling defendant based on the amount of the settlement. Under the agreement in the Margetts case the settling defendant s recovery is based on the damages proved at trial rather than the settlement amount. Therefore, if the settling defendant pays less to the plaintiff than is assessed for damages at trial, the settling defendant can actually recover more from the nonsettling defendant that it could under the Negligence Act. 10 Mary Carter Agreements have been the subject of judicial comment in Canada at least as early as While it is permitted in some American jurisdictions to make and keep these 8 Margetts at R.S.O. 1990, c. N.3 as amended 10 Of course, if the damages are assessed at a lower amount than the settlement, then the settling defendant will recover less than it would under the Negligence Act. The settlement agreement is quoted in the trial decision but summarized somewhat differently by the Court of Appeal. My reading of the decisions suggests that after settlement all amounts recovered were to accrue to the benefit of the settling defendant. 11 Nash v. Glickman and Gibson (1975), 7 O.R. (2d) 711 (C.A.) [hereinafter Nash] 17

20 agreements secret, it is clear in Canada that such an agreement cannot be held secret once it is concluded. This is clear from the jurisprudence and also from the Rules of Professional Conduct. The Commentary under Rule 4.01 states: In civil proceedings, the lawyer has a duty not to mislead the tribunal about the position of the client in the adversary process. Thus a lawyer representing a party to the litigation who has made or is party to an agreement made before or during the trial by which a plaintiff is guaranteed recovery by one or more parties notwithstanding the judgement of the court, should immediately reveal the existence and particulars of the agreement to the court and to all parties to the proceedings. In J. & M. Chartrand Realty Inc. v. Martin, 12 while the court did not specifically approve Mary Carter Agreements, it was made clear that at a bare minimum secrecy would not be permitted. In Pettey v. A vis Car Inc. 13 Ferrier J. upheld a Mary Carter Agreement in circumstances where there was immediate disclosure of the details of the agreement and sufficient procedural safeguards could be imposed so as to prevent an abuse of process. 14 Both Justice Ferrier, in Avis, 15 and Justice Dea, in Margetts, 16 dismissed the argument that the Mary Carter agreement constituted champerty or maintenance by granting a de facto interest in the plaintiff s claim against the defendant. The Avis judgement is considered as providing the groundwork for the adoption of Mary Carter Agreements in Canada. 17 Most post - Avis jurisprudence has been concerned with procedural details, such as whether certain procedural safeguards were appropriate; 18 whether certain factors amounted to an abuse of process; 19 whether an agreement would 12 [1981] O.J. No. 739 (H.C.J) 13 (1993). 103 D.L.R. (4 th ) 298 (Ont. Gen Div.) [hereinafter Avis] 14 Avis at 312. It should be noted that the agreement was concluded after the trial commenced. 15 Avis at Margetts at Normerica Inc. v Ontario Inc. (2002), 58 O.R. (3d) 464, [2002] O.J. No. 654 (S.C.J.); Edmonton (City) v. Lovat Tunnel Equipment Inc. (2000), 76 Alta. L.r. (3d) 389, [2000] A.J. No. 238 (Q.B.) 18 Waterworth (Litigation Guardian of) v. Freeman (2001), 10 M.V.R. (4 th ) 241, [2001] O.J. NO. 624 (C.A.) 18

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