In Biancaniello v. DMCT LLP, the Court of Appeal for Ontario applied the correctness standard of review on an appeal involving the interpretation of a negotiated contract. Feldman J.A., on behalf of a unanimous Court, cited the fact that the appeal had come to the Court from the Divisional Court with leave because it raised a question of general public importance as the basis for applying a correctness standard of review.

Background

Prinova Technologies and DMCT LLP signed a mutual release in respect of “all claims arising from any and all services provided” by DMCT to Prinova during a specified time frame. Years later, Prinova discovered that DMCT had provided negligent advice during the time period covered by the release, and sued DMCT. DMCT moved for summary judgment on the basis that Prinova’s claim was barred by the release.

The motion judge concluded that Prinova’s claim was not barred by the release. DMCT obtained leave to appeal to the Divisional Court, but that court affirmed the motion judge’s decision. DMCT then obtained leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal, which allowed the appeal and granted summary judgment on the basis that the release barred Prinova’s claim.

Standard of review was correctness

As the appeal concerned the interpretation of a contractual release, Justice Feldman conceded that ordinarily the deferential standard of review articulated in Sattva Capital Corp. v. Creston Moly Corp. would apply. However, she concluded that a different standard of review applied in this case because the appeal had come to the Court of Appeal from the Divisional Court with leave.

Specifically, a correctness standard of review applied because leave to appeal had been granted because the appeal raised a question of general public importance. In addition, Justice Feldman noted that leave to appeal to the Divisional Court had been granted on that basis, and that the release used language that is standard in many common release documents.

As a result, Justice Feldman held that “[f]rom a standard of review perspective, this appeal raises a question of law to which the correctness standard applies.”