dimanche 6 avril 2014

Dimanches rétro: dans l'évaluation des dommages subis par une partie, la Cour doit prendre en considération toute l'information qui lui est disponible à la date de procès

par Karim Renno
Irving Mitchell Kalichman s.e.n.c.r.l.

Dans l'évaluation des dommages subis par une partie qui formule une réclamation devant les tribunaux, peut-on prendre en considération les faits et informations qui se sont produits entre la date d'institution des procédures et le procès? Ceux qui ont de l'expérience de procès se diront sans doute que la réponse est simple: la Cour doit évaluer les dommages en fonction de tous les faits à sa dispositions au moment du procès. Reste que cette réponse n'était pas évidente avant que la Cour suprême tranche la question en 1919 dans Findlay v. Howard ((1919) 58 SCR 516).

Dans cette affaire, l'Appelant avait été condamné à verser des dommages à l'Intimé en raison de sa contravention au contrat de société intervenu entre les parties. Le débat en appel et devant la Cour suprême concerne principalement la question des dommages et non pas de la responsabilité.
En effet, l'Appelant fait valoir que le tribunal de première instance devait prendre en considération les faits survenus entre la date d'institution des procédures et du procès pour évaluer les dommages, alors que l'Intimé soumettait plutôt que la situation était cristallisée à la date d'institution des procédures.

Après analyse, la Cour suprême est d'avis que c'est la position de l'Appelant qu'il faut retenir sur la question. L'Honorable juge Anglin se prononce comme suit sur la question:
No punitive or vindictive consideration may enter into the assessment. Art. 1075 C.C. must be obeyed. In the case of fraudulent breach of contract actual damages sustained, though unforeseen at the date of the contract, must be made good. Where the breach is not accompanied by fraud damage which could not have been foreseen cannot be recovered. Whatever may have been the motive that induced the defendant to break the partnership contract, he took that step freely and deliberately and it must be ascribed to a determination to serve some purpose of his own. In the absence of proof of justification, such a breach should, I think, be regarded as falling within art. 1075 C.C. rather than within art. 1074. 
Assuming the conduct of the defendant to merit no more emphatic denunciation than that pronounced by the Court of Review, in regard to such elements of damage as cannot be measured with mathematical exactitude but must be determined on such probabilities as a jury is justified in proceeding upon, he is not entitled to expect that the amount of the plaintiff's compensation shall be weighed in golden scales or to have the sum allowed interfered with on appeal merely because of some trifling error in its computation. On the other hand, he would be entitled to complain of any palpable substantial excess in the award, even were his conduct properly characterized by the vigorous terms employed by the learned trial judge. 
Under art. 1075 C.C. the plaintiff would have been entitled to any unforeseen damages which were an immediate and direct consequence of the breach although they would not have arisen but for the happening of some events which could not have been anticipated when the contract was entered into. I have no doubt whatever that events which happened after the breach and would have adversely affected the profits that the plaintiff would have made had the contract been carried out until the end of the five year term must likewise be taken into account in estimating the loss for which the plaintiff is entitled to compensation and in determining what actually was the value of the contract to him at the date of the breach. 
The purpose of awarding damages being to compensate for a loss sustained by the plaintiff, it seems to me, with great respect for those who take the contrary view, to be repugnant to common sense that he should be permitted to recover for loss which facts within the cognizance of the court at the time of the trial shew he did not suffer merely because upon the facts as they stood at the date of the commission of the wrong which subjected the defendant to liability, or even at the time the action was begun, it seemed probable that such loss would be sustained.
Référence : [2014] ABD Retro 14

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