lundi 21 novembre 2011

Il importe de distinguer le préjudice subi au Québec de celui qui y est simplement comptabilisé

Irving Mitchell Kalichman s.e.n.c.r.l.

La décision de 2001 de la Cour d'appel dans l'affaire Québécor Printing est une des plus importantes rendues en droit international privé depuis l'entrée en vigueur du Code civil du Québec. Dans cette affaire, la Cour en était venue à la conclusion que le simple fait pour une personne résidente du Québec de subir un préjudice monétaire ne voulait pas dire qu'un préjudice était subi au Québec. Or, le 16 novembre dernier, dans une décision d'une clarté exemplaire sur la question de la juridiction des tribunaux québécois, la Cour souligne l'importance, à cet égard, de distinguer le préjudice monétaire effectivement subi au Québec de celui qui y est simplement comptabilisé. Il s'agit de l'affaire Option Consommateurs c. Infineon Technologies AG (2011 QCCA 2116).


Dans cette affaire, la Cour est saisie de l'appel d'un jugement qui avait refusé l'autorisation d'un recours collectif et avait accueilli un moyen déclinatoire contestant la compétence des tribunaux québécois.

La requête en autorisation d'instituer le recours collectif allègue que les Intimées, des manufacturiers de DRAM, ont comploté pour maintenir les prix dans le marché. La Cour supérieure avait non seulement accueilli l'exception déclinatoire des Intimés, mais également jugé que les critères de l'article 1003 n'étaient pas rencontrés. Dans le présent billet, nous ne traitons que de la première de ces questions.

Il n'est pas contesté en l'instance que les Intimées n'ont pas de domicile au Québec, ni de place d'affaires. La faute alléguée n'a pas non eu lieu au Québec. La question est donc celle de savoir si le préjudice allégué(d'avoir payé plus cher pour le produit contenant du DRAM) a été subi au Québec. Sur la base de l'affaire Québec Printing, les Intimées plaident que non. La Cour supérieure leur a donné raison.

Dans un jugement unanime rédigé par l'Honorable juge Nicholas Kasirer, la Cour d'appel renverse cette décision. Le juge Kasirer en vient d'abord à la conclusion que le contrat par lequel la personne désignée a acquis le produit contenant du DRAM a été conclu au Québec. C'est donc dire que c'est au Québec que la personne désignée a prétendument payé son achat trop cher en raison du complot allégué. Il s'en suit que son préjudice a été subi au Québec.

À cet égard, le juge Kasirer souligne l'importance de distinguer le préjudice monétaire effectivement subi au Québec comme en l'instance, de celui simplement comptabilisé au Québec (comme dans l'affaire Québécor Printing):
[66] In Quebecor Printing, a Quebec plaintiff claimed jurisdiction based on its economic loss recorded in Quebec in respect of a contract to be performed elsewhere and for a debt to be paid elsewhere. I take it as central to my colleague Beauregard, J.A.’s reasons that the obligation was to be performed, as he said, "totalement à Memphis" and that the debt was to be paid "à Memphis". He wrote that "[...] le fait que Regenair, dont le siège social est au Québec, ne reçoit pas le paiement de sa créance, laquelle est payable à Memphis, ne fait pas qu’un préjudice a été subi au Québec". In other words, the loss was suffered in Memphis but the damage was recorded in Quebec. This was not enough to ground jurisdiction in Quebecor Printing.
[67] This distinction between financial damage that is merely recorded in Quebec, on the basis of the location of the plaintiff’s domicile, and injury that is otherwise suffered in Quebec, is a strong theme running through the cases. In Foster, for example, it is this feature of Quebecor Printing that is emphasized by the Court:
CONSIDERING that the mere fact that Respondent has its head office in Montreal and that any monetary loss would presumably be recorded in Montreal, is not attributive of jurisdiction within the meaning of article 3148 paragraph 3 C.C.Q. (Quebecor Printing Memphis Inc. v. Regenair Inc., [2001] R.J.Q. 966 (C.A.).
[68] Hydro Aluminum Wells is cited by the respondents as authority for its submission that Ms. Cloutier's financial damage does not suffice as a connecting factor under article 3148 (3) C.C.Q. They rely on the following explanation offered by my colleague Brossard, J.A.: "Si le simple préjudice financier, nécessairement subi au lieu du domicile de la partie demanderesse, suffisait pour donner ouverture à l’application de l’article 3148 C.c.Q., il faudrait alors nécessairement conclure que les articles 3149 et 3150 C.c.Q. sont redondants et inutiles."[30] But they neglect to cite Brossard, J.A.’s analysis of where the obligations were to be performed in that case – completely in the United States – and his view that locating the financial damage suffered by the plaintiff in Quebec was an accounting exercise based on domicile alone.[31] Accordingly, in Hydro Aluminum Wells, as in Quebecor Printing and Foster, the locus of the plaintiff’s patrimony on its own was held to be insufficient to attribute jurisdiction as that would only be the place where damage was recorded. In those cases, however, the injury was sustained outside of Quebec unlike the circumstance of Ms. Cloutier.
[69] The distinction between financial injury materially suffered in Quebec and financial damage merely recorded here is important in respect of a balanced policy of establishing appropriate "international jurisdiction" for Quebec courts, in the absence of an exceptional grounds for holding the courts to be a forum non conveniens. If the legislature had been inclined to establish jurisdiction on the basis of damage recorded in Quebec, why did it not recognize the plaintiff’s domicile alone in the connecting factors listed in article 3148 C.C.Q.?
[70] On the other hand, financial loss substantively suffered in Quebec based on material facts arising in the province, as opposed to damage that is merely recorded in the patrimony of a Quebec plaintiff, is a sufficient basis for establishing jurisdiction for the Quebec courts under article 3148 (3) C.C.Q. This best explains the circumstances of Ms. Cloutier in the present case.
[71] Where the injury is materially suffered in Quebec, as opposed to damage merely being recorded here based on the plaintiff’s domicile, courts have been less hesitant to find jurisdiction on the basis of financial loss. In Sterling, a case in which the Court was divided, Rochon, J.A. held that the fact that Quebec was the place of the performance of the contract meant that the plaintiff in a distinct action for latent defects could properly be said to have suffered damage there. The recent case of British Airways p.l.c. provides useful guidance for the case at bar. Two airlines had conspired outside Quebec to raise prices on certain airline tickets. In seeking authorization for a class action against them, the plaintiff argued that there was both a contractual recourse against the airline from whom the ticket was purchased and an extracontractual recourse against the co-conspirator. In the Superior Court, it was held that the conspiracy took shape, as it affected the consumers, at the time the tickets were purchased in Quebec. Unlike Quebecor Printing, said Payette J., the financial loss in this case was suffered in Quebec. When the motion for leave to this Court was dismissed, my colleague Dalphond, J.A. wrote the following: "[…] les résidants du Québec qui ont contracté avec British Airways et qui ont alors payé un prix artificiellement gonflé par suite de manœuvres illégales impliquant Virgin, ces personnes ont subi au Québec un préjudice (art. 3148 (3) C.c.Q.), dont la cause est reliée aux gestes de Virgin."
[72] Applying the foregoing analysis to the facts alleged in the motion to bring the class action proceedings, I am of the view that the Superior Court has jurisdiction to hear the matter. Ms. Cloutier suffered an economic loss to be sure, but it is of a different character than the one spoken to by the Court in respect of the plaintiff in Quebecor Printing. She alleges that she paid too high a price for the computer she purchased because of the unfairly priced DRAM it contained. That remote-parties contract between Ms. Cloutier and Dell was deemed by the Consumer Protection Act to have been concluded in Montreal. The loss that she suffered on the occasion of concluding that contract grounds jurisdiction for the Quebec courts here. That loss is a "préjudice/damage" within the meaning of article 3148(3) notwithstanding its purely financial character. Taking the facts alleged in the motion to be true, it constitutes a material injury, suffered in Quebec, that was caused by the price-fixing conspiracy. The loss was not just recorded here because of the locus of Ms. Cloutier's patrimony but it was substantively suffered here and, as a result, grounds jurisdiction for the class action.
Lecture obligatoire pour tous les plaideurs puisqu'il s'agit là d'un jugement incontournable en droit international privé québécois.

Le texte intégral du jugement est disponible ici: http://bit.ly/sKc1L1

Référence neutre: [2011] ABD 371

Autre décision citée dans le présent billet:

1. Quebecor Printing Memphis Inc. c. Regenair Inc., [2001] R.J.Q. 966 (C.A.).

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