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Zuber & Company LLP

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James Dick Construction Limited v. Courtice Auto Wreckers Limited, 2024 ONCA 476

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Zuber & Company wishes to congratulate David Zuber and James Tausendfreund on their success today in the Court of Appeal in the decision of James Dick Construction v. Courtice Auto Wreckers. David Zuber was successful at trial in having the case dismissed against Courtice Auto Wreckers; however, the plaintiff appealed to the Court of Appeal.

Background: CAW leased two buildings from JDC for storing newsprint for recycling. Lease terms required CAW to insure the contents and JDC to insure the buildings. CAW was responsible for maintaining and repairing the sprinkler systems. In July 2009, CAW turned off the sprinkler system to protect the newsprint from a leak but did not reactivate it. A fire broke out, destroying one building and damaging another. JDC sued CAW for breach of lease, seeking damages for rebuilding costs. The trial judge dismissed the action, concluding that JDC bore the risk of fire damage as per the lease.

Appeal Issues: Interpretation of the lease and the covenant to insure, principles of causation, and assessment of damages.

Court’s Analysis: Interpretation of the Lease: The court affirmed the trial judge’s interpretation that the covenant to insure allocated the risk of fire damage to JDC. The lease’s repair provision did not shift the fire loss risk to CAW. The trial judge’s interpretation was aligned with legal principles and did not treat the covenant as determinative in isolation. Principles of Causation: The trial judge found insufficient evidence to conclude that CAW’s actions caused the fire damage. Assessment of Damages: Since the trial judge’s findings on the covenant to insure and causation were upheld, the issue of damages was moot.

Disposition: The appeal by JDC was dismissed. CAW was entitled to costs of $20,000. The court emphasized that the trial judge appropriately interpreted the lease as a whole, considering the specific language and context, and did not err in her findings.

James Dick Construction Limited v. Courtice Auto Wreckers Limited – Court of Appeal for Ontario (ontariocourts.ca)