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WRONGFUL DISMISSAL - Settlements

Thursday, December 10, 2020 @ 6:15 AM  


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Appeal by the defendant, Canadian Tire, from a ruling enforcing minutes of settlement in favour of the plaintiff, Kearns. The plaintiff worked for the defendant and affiliated dealers for 27 years. The employment contract provided for one month notice for each year of service up to a maximum of 24 months. The plaintiff, age 53, earned $307,000 per year as an associate vice-president. The defendant terminated the plaintiff’s employment as of July 2018 and made related payments to the plaintiff in July and September. In October, the plaintiff commenced a wrongful dismissal action due to a dispute over years of service given the work for affiliates. The defendant made an additional payment in November. In December, the parties participated in mediation that resulted in executed minutes of settlement contemplating payment of $150,000 to the plaintiff in addition to amounts already paid totalling approximately $240,000. However, the defendant’s representatives at the mediation were unaware of the November payment of $115,500. In February 2019, upon becoming aware of the November payment, the defendant took the position it should be deducted from the $150,000 settlement amount. The plaintiff brought a motion for enforcement of the settlement. The motion judge granted the relief sought. The defendant appealed.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. The motion judge’s finding that the defendant made a unilateral mistake with no fraud or similar conduct on the plaintiff’s part resulted in a declaration that the minutes of settlement constituted a valid and binding contract. The judge was entitled to find that there was no ambiguity in the written terms of the minutes, and that there was no evidence that the plaintiff was aware of the defendant’s mistake when the minutes were executed. The defendant’s payroll records, reviewed by its mediation representatives, clearly showed the November payment had been made to the plaintiff. The circumstances supported the judge’s exercise of discretion in declining the defendant’s request not to enforce the minutes. No reversible error arose from the trial judge’s analysis, findings and conclusion. No error arose from proceeding by way of motion, as the factual record was complete and did not raise genuine credibility issues requiring a trial.

Kearns v. Canadian Tire Corp., [2020] O.J. No. 4848, Ontario Court of Appeal, P.D. Lauwers, D.M. Brown and I.V.B. Nordheimer JJ.A., November 9, 2020. Digest No. TLD-December72020008