Case: Martin v. Riley, 2024 BCCA 194 (CanLII)

Keywords: Bitcoin; extensions of time; authenticity of court order

Audio: You can listen to the following case summary using the player below or on Spotify, courtesy of dicta. Recordings of the full-text of Court of Appeal and SCC reasons for judgment are available on dicta premium.

Synopsis:

The Appellant, Ms. Martin, is employed by a company called Global Capital Finance. She receives money transfers to an account at Tangerine Bank, withdraws the money, and uses it to purchase Bitcoin. She then deposits the Bitcoin into Bitcoin “wallets”. (See para. 5). Roughly a month into her work, a Tangerine employee contacts the Appellant by telephone to inform that her account is to be investigated. It is suspected the transfers are fraudulent. (See para. 6).

Thereafter, the Appellant files multiple notices of civil claim against Tangerine Bank (and later its President and CEO, the Respondent Ms. Riley) seeking damages for defamation and “wrongful act of possessing forged or fraudulent legal documents”. (See paras. 7-14). The Appellant alleges that, as a consequence of Tangerine’s communications regarding the money transfers,

    • she was obliged to tell her employer about Tangerine’s accusations,
    • she was terminated as a result, and
    • an order by Kirchner J. dismissing one of her actions “had been forged or fabricated by Tangerine and authorized by Ms. Riley”. (See paras. 7-12).

Ms. Riley applies for an order declaring the Appellant a vexatious litigant and prohibiting her from initiating legal proceedings without leave of the court and special costs. (See para. 15). Weatherill J. grants the orders. (See para. 16).

Following the expiry of her time to file an appeal against Weatherill J.’s orders, the Appellant informs Ms. Riley’s counsel that she plans to file a notice of appeal, application for leave to appeal, and application for an extension of time to appeal. (See para. 18). Skolrood J.A., in chambers, concludes the Appellant does not require leave to appeal, but dismisses her application for an extension of time. The Appellant applies pursuant to s. 29 of the Court of Appeal Act, S.B.C. 2021, c. 6 to vary the order. (See paras. 1, 20).

The Court of Appeal (Griffin, Harris, and Winteringham JJ.A.) dismisses the Appellant’s application. The Court notes that the appeal is “at an end and the order should reflect that the appeal is dismissed as abandoned” pursuant to s. 36(c) of the Court of Appeal Act, SBC 2021, c. 6 (See para. 46).

Importance:

The Court of Appeal cautioned that “litigation is not to be used as a form of harassment”. (See para. 45). In this case, the Appellant “commenced many duplicative actions…in multiple court registries”. (See para. 4). While the Court of Appeal stopped short of declaring the Appellant a vexatious litigant pursuant to s. 22(2)(a) of the Court of Appeal Act, the decision indicates that the Appellant’s approach is to be strongly discouraged. (See para. 45).

As to the merits of the Appellant’s application to vary, the Court of Appeal discussed the criteria established in Davies v. C.I.B.C. (1987), 1987 CanLII 2608 (BC CA). (See paras. 21-22). In an application to extend time to begin an appeal (or apply for leave to appeal), the Court of Appeal asks the following key questions:

  1. Was there a bona fide intention to appeal?
  2. When were the Respondents informed of the intention?
  3. Would the Respondents be unduly prejudiced by an extension of time?
  4. Is there merit in the appeal?
  5. Is it in the interest of justice that an extension be granted? (See, for example, Barnes v. Letkeman, 2016 BCCA 455 citing Davies v. C.I.B.C. (1987), 1987 CanLII 2608 (BC CA) at pp. 259-260; Moore v. Moore, 2012 BCCA 266 (CanLII), at paras. 18-19).

In this case, the Court of Appeal focused on the final two criteria. For Skolrood J.A., in chambers, the Appellant’s proposed appeal would not meet the “relatively low” merits threshold. Skolrood J.A. found the Appellant’s allegations were “baseless” and that allowing her matter to proceed “would sap scarce judicial resources and extend protracted proceedings that have already gone on for far too long.” (See para. 23).

By what standard of review will the Court of Appeal consider an application to vary the order of a single judge of the Court of Appeal? Citing Deline v. Shecter, 2024 BCCA 116 at paras. 21–22, the Court of Appeal indicated that interference is only justified where the single judge was “wrong in law, wrong in principle, or misconceived the facts”. (See para. 24).

Applying this standard, the Court of Appeal found Skolrood J.A. properly rejected the Appellant’s arguments on the application for an extension of time. (See paras. 42-44). Curiously, however, the Court of Appeal was silent on Skolrood’s conclusion that the Appellant did not require leave – was this conclusion also free from reviewable errors?

Of further interest and importance, the Court of Appeal affirmed that,

    • an order is valid and enforceable from the moment it is pronounced by a judge – including when pronounced orally in the courtroom; and
    • that opposing parties are entitled to rely on the authenticity of court orders obtained from the Court Registry without needing to justify their legitimacy (e.g., the form of the stamp or the electronic signature used). (See paras. 28-29).

The Court of Appeal also provided guidance on the rules, practice directions, administrative notices, and statutes applicable to the form and entry of court orders. (See para. 30-41).

Counsel for the Respondent: Jake Cabott and Sean Gallagher (Borden Ladner Gervais, Vancouver)

Discuss on CanLii Connects