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Cooperstock c. United Air Lines Inc.

2013 QCCA 526


















March 22, 2013








In person















Mtre Mark Bantey






(Articles 29 and 511 C.C.P.)



Clerk: Elena Captari

Court Room:  RC.18







9 h 30 : Beginning of the hearing.

Judgment is rendered by Madam Justice St-Pierre - see page 3

9 h 32 : End of the hearing.














Elena Captari























[1]          The applicant seeks leave to appeal from a judgment of the Honourable Kirkland Casgrain of the Superior Court, District of Montreal (the judge), rendered on February 15, 2013, dismissing his motion pursuant to articles 54.1 to 54.5 C.C.P to dismiss the respondents' action.

[2]          This judgment reads as follows:

The Court has to assume that the allegations in the Introductory Motion are proven. In effect, Plaintiffs are alleging that the employees have nothing to do with the complaints that may be submitted by clients. Furthermore, it is alleged that Defendants' Website is responsable for these employees receiving the complaints (correspondance and phone calls) and this is a reasonable assumption in view of the other facts alleged in the introductory motion. Finally, it is alleged that the employees are suffering undue hardship because of the correspondance and phone calls received. All of these allegations are sufficient to justify the action at this stage. It will be necessary to hear witnesses in order to decide otherwise. Consequently, both motions are dismissed. Costs to follow.

(emphasis in the original)

[3]          Applicant argues that the repondents are two major U.S. corporations and their senior employees whose claims against him are unfounded and only designed to interfere with his freedom of expression. He says the claim is a "strategic lawsuit against public participation", commonly known as a SLAPP motion.

[4]          In 1997, applicant, who is a private individual and consumer right's advocate, established a website critical of respondents' treatment of passengers and employees. For 15 years, he has maintained this website without objection or interference from respondents. Things changed shortly after the merger of United Air Lines and Continental Airlines.

[5]          Shortly after their merger, respondents instituted the present proceedings against him and commenced, at the same time, an action in Federal Court claiming infringement of intellectual property rights and resulting confusion in the minds of consumers.

[6]          In support of his slapp motion, the applicant alleges that he filed evidence before the judge demonstrating that :

·        His website is simply reproducing the same information that was made available over the Internet by the respondents themselves;

·        He began providing such information only after an agent of the respondents encouraged passengers to contact these respondents ' representatives;

·        His website clearly and prominently discourages misuse of this work contact information;

·        His website prominently indicates on every page that it is not the website of United Airlines and requires first-time visitors to acknowledge their understanding that the website is not that of the airlines.


Positions of the parties (in brief)



[7]          At paragraphs 3 to 5 of his motion to seek leave to appeal, the applicant submits:

·        that the judge confused his slapp motion with a second motion he had brought also on the same day, namely a motion to dismiss under article 165 (4) C.C.P. ;

·        that the judge erred in dismissing the slapp motion by:

o   erroneously treating the two motions as if they were the same;

o   failing to apply the correct legal test to the slapp motion;

o   confining his attention to the pleadings and failing to consider the evidence;

o   failing to consider the issue of abuse of process and the resulting restrictions on freedom of expression as relevant to motions under article 54.1 C.C.P.; and

·         that the judge rendered his decision without turning his mind to the slapp motion, and thereby deprived him of his opportunity to be heard.



[8]          At paragraphs 6 to 8, 26, 27, and 31 to 33 of his motion, applicant writes:

6. In light of the purpose of art. 54.1 C.C.P., which has the potential of final disposition of the action, this decision cannot be remedied by the final judgment and unnessarily delays disposition of the action;

7. The present motion for leave to appeal raises two important and novel questions of law:

            7.1 What is the legal test for motions under art. 54.1 C.C.P.?

7.2 What is the proper remedy if the court of first instance fails to consider a SLAPP motion and/or applies the wrong legal test?

8, These questions are serious and contribute to the proper functioning of the judicial process;

26. As noted in the preamble to An Act to amend the Code of Civil Procedure to prevent improper use of the courts and promote freedom of expression and citizen participation in public debate, these provisions were considered an important development in the administration of justice:

AS it is important to promote freedom of expression affirmed in the Charter of human rights and freedoms;

AS it is important to prevent improper use of the courts and discourage judicial proceedings designed to thwart the right of citizens to participate in public debate;

AS it is important to promote access to justice for all citizens and to strike a fairer balance between the financial strength of the parties to a legal action;

27. In sharp contrast to motions under art. 165(4) and the former art. 75.1 and 75.2 C.C.P., the provisions of art. 54.1 to 54.6 C.C.P. require the court to consider not only the pleadings, but also any evidence that the action may be improper use of procedure;

31. Since the Applicant's evidence in support of the SLAPP Motion was never considered by the First Judge, the motion was not properly heard by the Court;

32. This process therefore violated the principle of natural justice, audi alteram partem;

33. The Applicant respectfully submits that leave to appeal ought to be granted because:

33.1 the First Judge's decision defeats the purpose of art. 54.1 to 54.5 C.C.P.;

33.2 the First Judge's decision cannot be remedied by final judgement;

33.3 the First Judge's decision delays final disposition of the action;

33.4 the proposed appeal raises important and novel points of law;

(Reproduced as in the original)


[9]          Counsel for the respondents argues that the judge made no error, that the judgment rendered is not subject to leave to appeal under article 29 C.C.P. and that the file presents no question of public interest that has to be ruled upon immediately. In the circumstances, he submits that a judge in chambers has no jurisdiction to grant leave to appeal and, therefore, he invites me to dismiss the applicant's motion.

Analysis and conclusions

[10]       I elect to refer the motion to a panel of the Court and to ask the applicant and the respondents to prepare themselves for an hearing where they might be called upon to argue not only the motion but also the appeal on the merits.

[11]       Here are my reasons.


[12]       At first glance, I have no choice but to assume that applicant rightly submits that the judge failed to consider the evidence since, in the first sentence of his judgment and without thereafter qualifying the analysis he has to do differently, the judge affirms " The Court has to assume that the allegations in the Introductory Motion are proven". I say so making particular mention of the fact that I was not provided with the complete transcript of the hearing before the judge which might later on shed a different light on those proceedings.

[13]       Obviously, to assume (as the judge apparently did) that the allegations in the introductory motion are proven, when asked to rule upon a motion under article 54.1 C.C.P., is not the thing to do. Seized with such a motion, a judge has to follow the analysis process described in the reasons of my colleague Nicholas Kasirer in Acadia Subaru v. Michaud ( 2011 QCCA 1037 ), namely the teachings from the following paragraphs :

[22] There are, naturally enough, common issues in the appeal and cross-appeal bearing on whether or not the principal action is improper or appears to be improper pursuant to the Code of Civil Procedure, who bears the burden of proof of establishing this abuse, and what specific sanctions are available in the circumstances.  These questions invite the Court to examine, as a preliminary matter, the rules in articles 54.1 et seq. C.C.P. enacted in 2009 that set out the power to impose sanctions for improper use of procedure.

[23] Mr. Michaud alleges in his motion that the appellants’ action is improper in two different ways.  These submissions may both be cast in the language of article 54.1, paragraph 2, which set forth grounds for finding a "procedural impropriety".  First, he contends that the action in defamation is improper as it is "clearly unfounded", and thus deserves to be dismissed.  Second, he argues that the action by the car dealers is a strategic lawsuit against public participation.  The action in defamation seeks to silence Mr. Michaud rather than obtain compensation for the car dealers.  It was undertaken "as an attempt to defeat the ends of justice" that restricts his right to freedom of expression in public debate.  On this further basis, it should also be dismissed as improper.

[24] Article 54.1 , paragraph 2 C.C.P. includes these distinct grounds, as well as the basis for finding the use of procedure to be "excessive" or "unreasonable" as cited by the motions judge in respect of the conclusions on punitive damages:


[25] By separating the grounds of "clearly unfounded" from some of the other measures of impropriety, the legislature has made plain that circumstances exist in which an action might have a basis in law or in fact yet still be subject to dismissal or some other sanction. These other grounds include conduct that is in bad faith, a use of procedure that is excessive or unreasonable or causes harm to another person, or an attempt to defeat the ends of justice.  Mr. Michaud claims that the real objective of the 93 dealers is not to obtain reparation for damage to reputation but instead to prevent him from speaking out publicly on the radio.  In other words, he argues that should the Court decide that the action in defamation of the car dealers is not clearly unfounded - that it shows "colour of right" or an "apparence de droit" - it may nevertheless be dismissed if it is an attempt to defeat the ends of justice that restricts his freedom of expression in public debate.

[26] Secondly, the rules for establishing impropriety provide an advantage to the party alleging the wrong, when certain pre-conditions are met, by reversing the burden of proving an abuse of process.  Placing emphasis on the requirement that he only needs "summarily" establish that the car dealers' action "may" be improper, Mr. Michaud argues that he succeeded in reversing the onus before the Court of Quebec.  The car dealers should have been required to show that their action was not excessive or unreasonable and was justified in law.  (…)

[27] Thirdly, article 54.3 C.C.P. sets forth distinct remedies available when a court finds an improper use of procedure (paragraph 1) or an appearance thereof (paragraph 2).  The principal action may only be dismissed - the primary remedy sought here by Mr. Michaud - pursuant to paragraph 1.  Alternatively, Mr. Michaud invokes paragraph 2 in order to obtain redress should it be decided that there is only an appearance of improper procedure.  The dealers contend that the judge wrongly invoked paragraph 2 to reduce the punitive damages they claimed.  (…)

[28] For the purposes of the appeal and the cross-appeal, it is important to bear in mind that the parties were at an early point in the proceedings before the Court of Quebec on the principal action.  The car dealers had filed their action in defamation on June 25, 2009, supported by exhibits including a transcription of the two radio broadcasts, the demand letter, and some information regarding the CCAQ and the radio station.  On August 19, 2009, prior to the filing of any evidence in the record by either party, Mr. Michaud presented his motion to have the action declared improper pursuant to article 54.1 C.C.P.  He was entitled, of course, to do so.  Indeed not only do the rules in the Code of Civil Procedure contemplate that such a motion may be presented "at any time" (article 54.1 , paragraph 1 C.C.P.), but one might well argue that the law welcomes early consideration of abuse of process as a means of ensuring that the proceedings are proportionate in terms of cost and time required in keeping with articles 4.1 and 4.2 C.C.P. When properly available, early adjudication of an application for abuse of process promises that access to court resources will not be wrongly depleted by improper proceedings standing in the way of other litigants on the rolls.

[29] By allowing a party to establish impropriety "summarily" (article 54.2, paragraph 1), and by empowering the courts to sanction abuse or apparent abuse of process on that basis (article 54.3), the legislature has sought to provide judges with tools for acting expeditiously and inexpensively when faced with abuse or apparent abuse of process.  Prior to the enactment of article 54.1 C.C.P., some criticism had been levied against courts that they were seen as too skittish to take bold action to counter abuse, including dismissing claims entirely, for fear of putting an end to an action that might have some basis in law.  The reversal of the burden of proof and the powers to sanction apparent impropriety were enacted in part to answer the shortcomings of the former rules. (…)

[65] The path for analyzing procedural impropriety is set out by the legislature in articles 54.1 C.C.P. and following: first, one must consider whether Mr. Michaud has summarily established what may be an abuse of process on the distinct basis of "an attempt to defeat the ends of justice"; second, if Mr. Michaud has acquitted that burden, the onus to disprove impropriety falls to the appellants under article 54.2, paragraph 1; and, third, if there is an abuse or an appearance of abuse the appropriate remedy must be identified (article 54.3, paragraphs 1 and 2).

[14]       In its report «Les poursuites stratégiques contre la mobilisation publique - les poursuites-bâillons (SLAPP)» of 2007, the committee of legal experts mandated by the Minister of Justice of Quebec stated :

La rédaction de ce rapport a permis l'établissement d'un certain nombre de constats généraux : le phénomène du recours aux poursuites-bâillons est un phénomène réel, bien qu'il ne fasse pas l'objet d'une pratique systématique au Québec. Les situations récemment mises en évidence par les médias révèlent cependant que le SLAPP est une réalité observable, et qu'il constitue une véritable menace pour la participation des citoyens et des groupes au débat public. Dans ce sens particulier, il constitue à la fois une menace pour la démocratie participative et un véritable risque de détournement des finalités de la justice. Pour cette raison, il apparaît nécessaire d'intervenir de telle façon que ces pratiques soient découragées. Plus spécifiquement, il apparaît impératif aux membres du comité que toute politique concernant le contrôle de ces pratiques rencontre les objectifs suivants:

1)    la protection du droit à la liberté d'expression et d'opinion publique;

2)    l'interruption rapide des poursuites-bâillons en cours d'instance;

3)    la dissuasion des initiateurs de SLAPP;

4)    le maintien de l'intégrité et des finalités de l'institution judiciaire;

5)    l'accès à la justice.

(My emphasis)


[15]       Following the recommendations of the report, the National Assembly adopted the anti-SLAPP Bill : articles 54.1 to 54.5 C.C.P. were in name introduced to implement the committee's recommandations concerning protection against slapp actions.

[16]       Applicant argues that the entire purpose of articles 54.1 to 54.5 C.C.P., in the case of a slapp action, is to spare the defendant from onerous legal proceedings.

[17]       He argues that applying the wrong legal test and failing to turn one's mind to the evidence, as the judge did, defeats this purpose : it deprives a defendant of the opportunity to seek that protection, a situation that cannot be remedied by final judgment. Therefore, he concludes that his proposed appeal raises an important question of public interest, a novel question and one this Court should decide immediately. 

[18]       To support his argument that the judgment rendered is not subject to leave to appeal, counsel for the respondents submitted the following judgments rendered by judges of our Court, sitting as judge alone:

  • Henri Labbé & Fils inc. c. Québec (Ville de), 2009 QCCA 17 (Mr. Justice François Pelletier);
  • Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal c. Godbout, 2010 QCCA 1259 (Mr. Justice Jacques Dufresne);
  • Delarosbil c. Syndicat des copropriétaires Le Verre-Bourg, 2012 QCCA 272 (Madam Justice Julie Dutil);
  • Cormier c. Teine Energy Ltd., 2012 QCCA 638 (Madam Justice Marie-France Bich).


[19]       In  Henri Labbé & Fils inc. c. Québec (Ville de), Mr. Justice Pelletier writes:

Le jugement de première instance prononcé par le juge Peter Bradley de la Cour du Québec a rejeté la requête en rejet de défense proposée par la requérante Henri Labbé & Fils inc. L'interrogatoire tenu dans ce dossier n'a pas convaincu le juge que la défense de la Ville intimée était frivole. Or, de l'avis de la requérante, cette défense l'est bel et bien, puisqu'elle remet en question des considérations retenues dans un autre jugement interlocutoire. Cet autre jugement, prononcé par le juge Daniel Lavoie, j.c.q., a rejeté une requête de la Ville intimée soulevant l'irrecevabilité de l'action instituée par la requérante. Toujours de l'avis de cette dernière, les considérations exprimées dans le jugement Lavoie décident en partie du litige et ont force de chose jugée de sorte que le jugement Bradley aurait dû les tenir pour avérées et conclure en conséquence à la frivolité de la défense les remettant en cause. De là la demande pour permission de faire appel du jugement Bradley qui, selon la requérante, déciderait en partie du litige au sens de l'article 29 C.p.c. en ce qu'il empêcherait la requérante de plaider de nouveau la chose jugée devant le juge du fond.

Je ne peux me rendre à ces arguments.

Il est de jurisprudence constante que le jugement rejetant une requête en irrecevabilité fondée sur le paragraphe 4 de l'article 165 du Code de procédure civile ne lie pas le juge du fond. Pour les mêmes raisons, le jugement rejetant une requête en rejet fondée sur l'article 75.1 C.p.c., tel le jugement Bradley, est un jugement interlocutoire non susceptible d'appel qui ne lie pas le juge du fond.

(References omitted)

[20]       In Hôpital du Sacré-Coeur de Montréal c. Godbout, Mr. Justice Dufresne writes:

[4] Il est de jurisprudence constante que le jugement interlocutoire rejetant une requête en irrecevabilité n'est pas appelable au sens de l'article  29  C.p.c., sauf si le débat porte sur la compétence du tribunal, la chose jugée ou la litispendance ou encore s'il soulève une question nouvelle, d'intérêt public ou d'importance générale, sur laquelle il est nécessaire de statuer immédiatement. Aucun de ces cas d'exception ne se retrouve ici. Le fait que la requête en déclaration d'irrecevabilité soit présentée en vertu des articles 54.1 et suivants, plutôt qu'en vertu de l'article 165 (4) C.p.c., n'y change rien.

[5] Enfin, le juge du fond ne sera pas lié, dans les circonstances, par le jugement, objet de la présente requête.

[6] Compte tenu des articles  29 et 511 C.p.c. et de leurs exigences respectives, il n'y a pas lieu de faire droit à la requête des requérants.

(References omitted)


[21]       In Delarosbil c. Syndicat des copropriétaires Le Verre-Bourg, Madam Justice Dutil writes:

[1] En vertu des articles 29 et 511 C.p.c., un jugement interlocutoire est susceptible d'appel sur permission d'un juge de la Cour. L'article 29 C.p.c. édicte les critères qui permettent de l'obtenir. C'est le cas lorsque le jugement interlocutoire : 1) décide en partie du litige 2) ordonne une chose à laquelle le jugement final ne pourra pas remédier 3) a pour effet de retarder inutilement l'instruction du procès.

[2] En outre, un appel peut être autorisé dans les cas où le débat porte sur une question nouvelle et d'intérêt public qu'il est nécessaire de trancher immédiatement. Ma collège la juge Bich résume bien la jurisprudence de notre Cour sur cette question.

[3]        Plus récemment, il semble que l'on ait également ouvert - plus exactement entrebâillé - la porte à l'appel dans les cas où le débat porte sur une question de droit nouvelle et d'intérêt public, qu'il est nécessaire de trancher immédiatement. La jurisprudence offre quelques exemples de cette exception qui, on le comprendra, ne peut être réservée qu'à des cas tout à fait particuliers et qui doit donc être interprétée et appliquée de façon stricte, sous peine de dénaturer la règle générale et de contourner l'article 29 C.p.c. La jurisprudence sur le sujet montre d'ailleurs le caractère fort restreint de l'exception : ou à une disposition de droit substantiel ou encore se conjuguer à l'une ou l'autre des deux exceptions déjà reconnues (litispendance/chose jugée, compétence), l'intérêt public devant être manifeste dans tous les cas.

[3] En l'espèce, je suis d'avis que les critères de l'article 29 C.p.c. ne sont pas satisfaits pour qu'une permission d'appeler soit accordée. Par ailleurs, aucun des cas d'exception ne se retrouve en l'espèce.

[4] Enfin, le juge du fond ne sera pas lié par le jugement qui rejette la requête en rejet fondée sur l'article 54.1 C.p.c. Il aura l'éclairage de toute la preuve pour trancher le litige.

(References omitted; my emphasis)


[22]       Finally, in Cormier c. Teine Energy Ltd.,Madame Justice Bich writes:

[9] Par ailleurs, le jugement de première instance n'est pas non plus un jugement auquel ne pourra remédier le jugement final au sens du second paragraphe du premier alinéa de l'article 29 C.p.c., puisque, ainsi qu'on vient de le voir, il ne lie pas le juge du fond. De ce point de vue, l'analogie s'impose avec le jugement rejetant une requête en irrecevabilité, qui n'est en principe pas appelable, sauf exceptions dont aucune n'est ici pertinente. Le fait d'avoir à « subir » un procès ne peut être considéré en ce sens comme un préjudice irréparable, pas plus que ce n'est le cas en matière d'irrecevabilité rejetée. Tel qu'indiqué plus haut, la Cour en était venue à la même conclusion dans le cas des requêtes en rejet régies par l'ancien article 75.1 C.p.c., conclusion qui est transposable aux requêtes en rejet désormais régies par les articles 54.1 et s. C.p.c. Sans doute pourrait-il y avoir des cas d'exception, mais l'espèce n'en est pas.


[13] La lecture de la requête pour permission d'appeler et du jugement de première instance montre que le requérant entend soumettre à la Cour, pour l'essentiel, l'ensemble des arguments qu'il a présentés à la juge et auxquels celle-ci répond d'une manière qui ne mérite pas un réexamen par cette cour. La juge de première instance expose correctement les règles relatives aux articles 54.1 et s. et celles qui sont applicables à l'outrage au tribunal. À vrai dire, d'ailleurs, la requête ne lui reproche pas d'avoir erré à ce chapitre, mais plutôt dans l'application de ces règles. Au total, l'affaire n'est que de fait et d'appréciation de la preuve (preuve sommaire, du reste), et, au vu de la norme d'intervention applicable en pareille matière, la soussignée estime que le pourvoi n'a pas de chances raisonnables de succès, ce qui commande le rejet de la requête.

(My emphasis)

[23]       Generally speaking, a judgment dismissing a motion brought under article 54.1 C.C.P. is not subject to appeal. However, there might be exceptions as noted by my colleagues madame Justice Dutil and Madam Justice Bich in the extracts of their judgments hereinabove.

[24]        Taking into account the error the judge made (or seems to have made), the nature of the debate opposing the parties and the specific purpose of articles 54.1 to 54.5 C.C.P. as regards to slapp actions, granting the present motion to seek leave to appeal, because it would qualify as a case of exception, might be the proper thing to do.

[25]       Should that decision be made by me, sitting as judge in chambers, or a panel of the Court?

[26]       In Elitis Pharma inc. c. RX Job inc, 2012 QCCA 1348 (motion to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada dismissed on February 14th 2013), our Court, in the majority, ruled that:

[7] Il est bien établi que la permission d'appeler accordée par le juge unique ne saurait conférer à la Cour une compétence qu'elle n'a pas par ailleurs. En pareille situation, la « Cour ne révise pas la façon dont le juge unique exerce sa discrétion, mais doit s'assurer que la matière en est une pour laquelle permission pouvait être accordée ».

[27]       Given that, as I said before, a judgment dismissing a motion brought under article 54.1 C.C.P. is generally not subject to appeal, in my opinion such a decision should be made by a panel of the Court rather than by me.

[28]       Therefore, I refer the motion to a panel of the Court and I suspend proceedings in first instance pending judgment on the motion and the appeal, if the motion is granted. 



[29]        Rules 48 and 49 of the  Rules of the Court of Appeal in Civil Matters, reads as follows:



Abandonment. Where the appellant’s arguments and documents standing in lieu of the factum are not served and filed within the established time limit, the appeal shall be deemed to be abandoned and article 503.1 of the Code of Civil Procedure shall apply, mutatis mutandis.



Foreclosure. Where the respondent’s argument and, if applicable, documents standing in lieu of the factum are not served and filed within the established time limit, the respondent shall be foreclosed from filing and article 505 of the Code of Civil Procedure apply, mutatis mutandis.




[30]       REFERS the motion for leave to appeal to a panel of the Court;

[31]        ORDERS the applicant, after having served a copy upon the respondent, to file in the office of the Court, no later than April 26th 2013, four copies of the exhibits that would normally have made up schedules I, II and III of its factum, including the motion for leave to appeal and the present judgment, as well as a written argument not exceeding 10 pages, and its authorities;

[32]        ORDERS the respondent, after having served a copy upon the appellant, to file in the office of the Court, no later than May 31st 2013, supplementary documents, as well as a written argument not exceeding 10 pages, and its authorities;

[33]        ORDERS the parties to present their written arguments on 21.5 cm X 28 cm (8 ½ X 11 in.) paper, with line spacing of at least 1.5 lines (except in the case of quotations, which must be single-spaced and indented), and the computer-prepared text shall be in 12-point type, with no more than 12 characters per 2.5 cm;

[34]        ORDERS that the documents filed by the parties carry a continuous pagination or tabs, a front cover and a general table of contents;

[35]        REFERS the file to the Master of the Roll so that a date of hearing be fixed for a period of 60 minutes (30 minutes for each side) ; 

[36]        Cost to follow suit.







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