Editor’s Note: This post was written as a preview of an upcoming Supreme Court of Canada decision for the Fantasy Courts website and newsletter.

Hi, here’s what you need to know about the Supreme Court of Canada this week in 5 minutes.

Latest News

  1. 🤜 The SCC will release its judgments in R. v. Ramos and R. v. Lozada on Friday, May 17, 2024. At issue is when a person should be criminally responsible for the actions of another. The appellants were part of a fight in which a person was stabbed, but they did not do the stabbing.
  2. 💧 On May 10, 2024, the SCC released its decision in St. John’s (City) v. Lynch, 2024 SCC 17. The Court allowed the appeal and restored the application judge’s order, which found that the watershed zoning was an independent enactment and was not made with a view to expropriation. As a result, the zoning could not be ignored for the purpose of determining compensation for constructive expropriation.
  3. 🔮 33% of players correctly predicted the outcome.

Head over to Fantasy Courts to lock in your predictions for this week’s decision, or read more about the cases below.

Case to Predict: Causation & Manslaughter

Appeal as of right from R. v. Triolo, Ramos & Lozada, 2023 ONCA 221

SCC factums and webcast

What Happened?

Background: The appellants, along with other individuals, participated in a fight that resulted in the fatal stabbing of the victim.

Trial: At trial for manslaughter, the Crown argued that the appellants were liable for manslaughter either as a co-principal with the man alleged to have stabbed the victim, or as an aider and abettor of the stabber. The jury found the appellants guilty.

Court of Appeal: The appellants appealed the manslaughter conviction. They alleged that the trial judge erred in his instructions to the jury on the law of causation with respect to co-principal liability. The majority of the Court of Appeal for Ontario dismissed the appeal. It concluded that read as a whole, the jury instructions accurately explained the law of causation as it applied to the appellant.

Paciocco J.A., dissenting, would have allowed the appeal, set aside the conviction and ordered a new trial. He found that the trial judge twice misdirected jurors by understating the standard of “reasonable foreseeability” they could use in determining whether the appellant’s unlawful act amounted to a “significant contributing cause” of the victim’s death.

What Was Argued at the SCC?

Appellants: As noted by the dissenting appeal judge, the trial judge erred by not asking the jury to consider whether the stabber’s use of a deadly weapon was an unforeseeable intervening act that broke the chain of causation between the appellants’ actions and the victim’s death. The trial judge told the jury twice that it “may be enough” to convict the appellants of manslaughter if they simply concluded that non-trivial bodily harm was reasonably foreseeable.

Respondent: The Crown argued that by being part of the group that ganged up on the victim, the appellants made him vulnerable to the knife attack. Therefore, they were a significant contributing cause of his death. The stabbing was not an intervening act that broke the chain of causation. The intervening act doctrine does not apply where the person who causes the death is a co-participant in a group attack.

What Else Should You Know Before Making a Prediction?

Justice Paciocco is one of the leading criminal law judges in Canada. His dissent in this case will certainly give the SCC panel a lot to think about. Although the jury charge was lengthy and only two passages are at issue, they are significant to the findings of guilt. I’m leaning towards appeal allowed, and the matter returned for a new trial.

Previous Prediction: Compensation for Constructive Expropriation

On May 10, 2024, the SCC released its decision in St. John’s (City) v. Lynch, 2024 SCC 17.

Held (7:0): Appeal allowed, application judge’s order restored. The family is entitled to fair compensation but not more than fair compensation for the City’s constructive expropriation of their property.

Key Points:

  • The basic measure of compensation is the same for both formal and constructive expropriation: compensation is based on the property’s market value. Land use restrictions, including zoning regulations, impact market value and are therefore normally taken into account when fixing compensation.
  • The Pointe Gourde principle provides that changes in value resulting from the expropriation scheme itself are to be ignored in the compensation assessment. This prevents a city from artificially reducing the value of a property by way of regulations and zoning in order to reduce the compensation payable.
  • In the present case, the watershed zoning was an independent enactment and not made with a view to expropriation. Accordingly, the market value assessment for the property must take into account the fact that it is limited to discretionary agriculture, forestry, and public utility uses.
  • The City does not have to pay compensation based on the value of the land as if residential development was permissible.

Predictions: 33% of players correctly predicted that the appeal would be allowed.

-Tom Slade

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