Penney v Vipond Inc., 2011 ABQB 785, [Penney]

In Penney, Master Hanebury confirmed that a release must be unequivocally and expressly agreed to, in order to meet the high threshold in an Application for Summary Dismissal.

When the plaintiff employee was dismissed without cause, he signed a severance letter which outlined the amounts that would be deposited into his bank account. The release was attached however, the employee did not sign the release.

The defendant employer argued that since the employee had signed the severance proposal and had accepted the payments associated with both the severance and the release, the employee had effectively released the employer.

Master Hanebury concluded because the severance letter and the attached release were drafted by the employer, and were not clear in their effect, that the employee’s acceptance of the payments did not constitute acceptance of the release. Had Mr. Penney knowingly accepted the funds associated with the release, then that would have constituted acceptance, but the evidence did not support that conclusion.

Summary dismissal was refused and the issue of whether Mr. Penney in fact released Vipond was a genuine issue for trial.