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Tort Law - Conspiracy - Practice and procedure -

Thursday, November 24, 2016 @ 7:00 PM  

Appeal by the plaintiff, Green, from an order of summary judgment dismissing his claim of conspiracy to injure, breach of contract and breach of duty of care against the defendants, Woloshyn, Stewart, Anchan and the University of Winnipeg (the “university defendants”). In 2011, as part of his Faculty of Education program at the university, the plaintiff was placed at a high school for his teaching practicum. His supervising teacher had concerns about his teaching methods, which he expressed to the principal. The principal met with the plaintiff to discuss the concerns. During the meeting, the plaintiff became agitated and confrontational and, as a result, was directed to leave the school. The principal contacted Woloshyn, the Director of Student Teaching at the Faculty and advised her of what had happened. Independently, the University received complaints from classmates and instructors of the plaintiff concerning his in-class conduct. The day after the plaintiff was removed from his practicum, Anchan, the Associate Dean of the Faculty, forwarded the complaints to the University Registrar. The complaints were investigated and it was recommended that the plaintiff be suspended from the Faculty and barred from campus. Subsequently, the President of the University did so. The plaintiff unsuccessfully appealed his suspension. The plaintiff took no further steps with respect to the decision, but commenced legal proceedings against the high school and university defendants claiming they conspired to injure him by depriving him of the opportunity to become a certified teacher. He also claimed defamation against the high school defendants. The high school defendants’ motion for summary judgment to dismiss the claim against them was allowed. The University defendants also brought a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the claim against them. The Master was not convinced that the plaintiff’s action must necessarily fail and he dismissed the motion. The university defendants appealed. The plaintiff amended his statement of claim as to claims for breach of contract and breach of duty of care against the university defendants. At the hearing of the appeal, he sought leave to admit new evidence consisting of a transcript from criminal proceedings. The judge disallowed the new evidence. He further found that the matter involved discipline imposed by the University and therefore the appropriate remedy was judicial review of that decision and not a statement of claim for damages. He further found that the plaintiff had not established a genuine issue for trial and that summary judgment should be granted. The plaintiff appealed arguing that the judge erred in refusing to admit the additional evidence, erred in finding that the plaintiff’s claim was essentially an academic dispute and erred in granting summary judgment in favour of the university defendants.

HELD: Appeal dismissed. In refusing to admit the fresh evidence, the motion judge exercised his discretion in a manner consistent with the established criteria. The factual point, namely that the termination of the practicum was not before the university committee who suspended the plaintiff, was before the motion judge. Nothing further was needed in order to advance the argument the plaintiff wished, namely that the university proceedings were not an effective remedy. The plaintiff had not established a genuine issue for trial. The steps taken by the university defendants were in compliance with the requirements set out in the student handbook and there was no evidence that the university defendants, by their conduct or otherwise, took steps that could be seen as part of a conspiracy to injure the plaintiff. It was not the termination of the plaintiff’s practicum that ended his course of study at the university, but instead it was his non-academic conduct. The plaintiff had not shown any evidence of a breach of contract by the university defendants other than possibly their failure to seek to remediate his difficulties with the practicum. However, such steps would have been overtaken by the suspension proceedings, which would have left him unable to continue in any event