Trial judges are required to provide reasons that inform the parties, the appellate court, and the public of the result of the case and how the judge reached his or her conclusion.
In an appeal, it is difficult to successfully argue that a judge provided inadequate reasons. For example, in Gendron v. Doug C. Thompson Ltd. (Thompson Fuels), 2019 ONCA 293, the Court of Appeal stated that
It would appear, at least in this court, that inadequacy of reasons has become a boilerplate ground of appeal. When a legal or factual error is not readily apparent, often an allegation is made that the reasons are inadequate in order to add heft to what is otherwise a weak appeal. Minor omissions are seized upon as significant deficiencies in the judge’s reasoning process. Appellants then argue that, try as they might, they just cannot understand what the judge was thinking or how he or she got to the result.
The Court of Appeal called this an “unfortunate trend”, indicating that “there is a difference between being unable to understand a trial judge’s reasons and being wilfully blind as to their meaning”.
However, in the recent decision of Manos v. Riotrin Properties (Flamborough) Inc., 2020 ONCA 211, the Court of Appeal allowed a defendant’s appeal in a personal injury action, due to inadequate reasons.
The Court of Appeal noted that “proper reasons serve to: (i) justify and explain the result; (ii) tell the losing party why he or she lost; (iii) provide for informed consideration of the grounds of appeal; and (iv) satisfy the public that justice has been done”.
The key consideration is whether the reasons permit meaningful and effective appellate review.
The Court of Appeal indicated that the trial judge did not provide any analysis of the evidence of the defendant’s experts on the issue of causation.
Although it was open to the trial judge to not accept the defendant’s experts’ evidence, the Court of Appeal stated that the reasons had to demonstrate why the trial judge rejected the evidence and the rejection had to be rooted in the evidence before him. Otherwise, his reasons would not be reasonably intelligible to the parties or amenable to meaningful appellate review.
As a result, a new trial was ordered.