September 30, 2023

Hurricane Fiona: A Good Excuse for Lacking a Household Courtroom Deadline?

The world has seen greater than its share of turmoil these days:  We’re closing in on three years of coping with a pandemic.  There’s been a Russian-led struggle within the Ukraine for greater than a yr.  And simply the opposite day, there was an earthquake in Turkey that has tragically killed tens of 1000’s of its residents.

Though Canada has been comparatively unscathed, we did have a extreme climate occasion on September 24, 2022, when Hurricane Fiona hit land in Prince Edward Island. 

That hurricane wreaked some havoc in area. Buildings have been damages and full communities misplaced energy. It was blamed for the dying of 1 73-year-old lady. 

And in a single divorce case out of PEI, it was additionally blamed for a husband’s failure to file his Discover of Attraction on time.  

In asking the court docket for a proper extension, the husband defined that Hurricane Fiona took out his energy for a couple of days, and he had no Wi-Fi to permit him to analysis and put together the supplies he wanted for his attraction. He additionally claimed he was mentally harassed throughout this time, and had a pre-existing medical situation that was exacerbated by the entire ordeal. This left him bodily unable to arrange the attraction paperwork in time, he mentioned. 

The spouse objected to an extension.  Even taking Hurricane Fiona into consideration, the husband had no legitimate excuse for his delay, she claimed.  He had missed the appeal-filing deadline by a full three weeks by the point he received round to asking for an extension.  As for so-called medical excuse:  She famous it didn’t appear to stop him from advancing different litigation towards her, throughout this very same time-period.

The court docket began by wanting on the procedural guidelines. Compliance with the deadlines for submitting a Discover of Attraction is a “vital requirement”, and “Cut-off dates are usually construed to be obligatory”.  This meant that until there’s a provision within the guidelines that permits for an extension, then the actual fact the husband didn’t comply would outright preclude him from bringing his attraction.

Then again, underneath the PEI Guidelines a court docket has the discretion to grant an extension “on such phrases as are simply”.   The court docket defined the governing ideas: 

In exercising discretion to grant aid from compliance with the time restrict for commencing an attraction, attraction courts try to reconcile the competing pursuits of finality and certainty for the profitable celebration to the continuing and the impact for the unsuccessful celebration of failing to adjust to the time restrict.  … [one] competing curiosity is that “it’s fascinating to have appeals selected their deserves,” until a respondent has been prejudiced by the delay.

In figuring out the fitting stability within the case, the court docket needed to think about the “pursuits of justice”, and ask itself these 4 questions: 

  • Did the husband have an excellent religion intent to attraction? 
  • Did his attraction have advantage?
  • Did he have an affordable excuse for the delay in not submitting throughout the prescribed time?
  • Have been there distinctive or particular circumstances justifying the extension of time?

The court docket then turned to the details.  The acknowledged that native courthouses weren’t operations for a 10-day interval resulting from lack of electrical energy.  The husband professed to creating his finest efforts throughout that point and had certainly taken a couple of steps, however was apparently hindered by the shortage of energy and Wi-Fi.  The court docket additionally heard from the husband’s household doctor, who confirmed he had anxiousness and panic dysfunction (with the attendant difficulties in concentrating and speaking) in addition to Crohn’s illness. 

When it comes to the deserves of the case, all of the husband needed to present was that the attraction was “debatable”, which the court docket discovered it was.  A short delay would trigger the spouse no important prejudice to her case.

In the long run, the court docket dominated the husband had an affordable excuse for the missed deadline, and granted him a brief extension.  

[Wonder how the excuse of “my dog ate my court documents” would go over with a court?]

Full textual content of the choice:

R. v. .R, 2023 PECA 1 (CanLII)