Content Marketing and Legal Liability

Content marketing is a growing way businesses are seeking to connect with potential clients. The idea behind this type of marketing, is that if a potential customer searches for a problem they are seeking to resolve and discovers relevant information, they are more likely to be interested in that business. But what if the potential customer relies on that information to their detriment, without contracting services of the business? For example, a potential client searches for a solution to their electrical problem, finds information online, relies on that information and gets injured. In this case, the potential customer may argue the business (they never actually hired) contributed to their damages. This person may argue they read the information on the website of a local business, relied on that information related to their electrical problem and as a result, got hurt. Whether or not the claim has any merit, the business may be dragged into unwanted litigation. To reduce the potential for a claim, businesses must be careful about what they write and how they hold themselves out to the public. The business should be weary about farming out cheap content writers as these people are most likely not trained in the particular profession and simply may not care about any liability. The business should also have a complete disclaimer explaining how the website operates to the public with terms of use. Take Made Electric for example, an electrical company here in Toronto. You will see they have professional information for the public without detailed instructions, and a comprehensive disclaimer.

Is the Death of the Appellant the end of the Appeal?

The general rule is that the death of the accused causes the appeal to abate whether the accused is the appellant or respondent, and abatement occurs even if the appeal has been argued and the decision reserved.  R. v. Cadeddu (1983), 3 C.C.C. (3d) 112 (Ont. C.A.), at p. 114;   R. v. Smith, 2004 SCC 14, [2004] 1 S.C.R. 385, at para. 11. Under this traditional rule, the courts nonetheless recognized some discretion to proceed to judgment despite the death of the accused.  The discretion to hear the appeal of an individual who dies pending the hearing of his or her appeal should be exercised only in exceptional circumstances where the death of the appellant is survived by a continuing controversy which, notwithstanding the death of the individual most directly affected by the appeal, requires resolution in the interests of justice.  See Smith, at paras. 4, 20, 50. R. v. Slingerland, 2020 ONCA 417, at para. 12. In R. v. Singerland, 2020 ONCA 417 the ONCA found no exceptional circumstances to justify departing form the general rule that the death of an accused appellant renders the appeals against conviction and sentence moot, notably--  The appeal did not raise any issues of public importance to the administration of justice;  While stigma attaches to those who are convicted of sexual offences, that stigma is not an exceptional circumstance.  "Most serious crimes carry with them a stigma. But if stigma, coupled with media coverage, were sufficient to constitute exceptional circumstances, the rule that generally forecloses continuation of an appeal by a deceased party would be supplanted by its exception. Put otherwise, the rule would become the exception and the exception, the rule." R. v. Slingerland, at para. 19.  Stuart

By |June 25th, 2020|Categories: O'Connell Law Blog|Comments Off on Is the Death of the Appellant the end of the Appeal?

Getting Away From the “Representative Sample”: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Presenting Unlawful Pornography in Court

Exposure to unlawful forms of pornography, such as child pornography, can be traumatizing. R. v. Shaw, 2018 ONCJ 61 (CanLII). On most occasions, it is unnecessary for the judge to view the child pornography that comprises the subject matter of a charge or even for the Crown to select a representative sample of images from the child pornography collection to show at the sentencing hearing. Defence and Crown counsel should do their best to agree to a mutually satisfactory verbal description of the contents of child pornography so as to protect courtroom participants (including themselves, the judge, and victims) from unnecessary exposure to potentially trauma-inducing raw material.[FN]   R. v. Marratt, 2019 ONCJ 618, per Band J; See also R. v. Shaw, 2018 ONCJ 61, per Band J. This can even be taken a step farther.  In the appropriate case, once the parties have agreed to present the evidence in a summarized verbal form, they should be canvassed as to whether it can simply be filed as a written exhibit to be reviewed by the judge alone.   Where counsel does wish to present the evidence, the presiding judge or counsel should provide a warning concerning its nature.  That way, court staff and victims can raise any concerns with the presiding judge.  This will also allow members of the public to decide whether or not to remain in the courtroom.                             Written by Stuart O’Connell (Barrister/Solicitor).    [FN] This approach is permissible in certain circumstances.  Among the relevant considerations are the existence of an agreement between the parties as to the facts and whether, owing to his or her professional experience, the sentencing judge is able to “fully appreciate the sickening horror of such pornography”: see R.

By |June 22nd, 2020|Categories: O'Connell Law Blog|Comments Off on Getting Away From the “Representative Sample”: A Trauma-Informed Approach to Presenting Unlawful Pornography in Court

Paying out of the Public Purse & the Power of a Statutory Court to Control its Own Process

Every court of law has the authority to control its own process. Superior Courts A superior court’s power to control its process is part of a superior court’s inherent jurisdiction:    R. v. Cunningham, 2010 SCC 10, at para. 18; Canada (Attorney General) v. Pacific International Securities Inc.,  2006 BCCA 3030, at para. 28.     Pursuant to the power to control its own process, a superior court can, among many other things: ·         order parties to pay costs for frivolous or abusive proceedings or in cases involving misconduct: R. v. Chapman (2006), 2006 CanLII 1178 (ON CA); ·         remove counsel from a case when required to ensure a fair trial. MacDonald Estate v. Martin, 1990 CanLII 32 (SCC).   Statutory Courts A statutory court’s ability to control its own process as largely parallel to a superior court’s ability to control its own process. However, the statutory court does not have inherent jurisdiction. R. v. Fercan Developments Inc., 2016 ONCA 269 (CanLII), at para. 52. It would be generally undesirable and inefficient if a superior court could issue an order under its power to control its process but, a statutory court confronted with the same set of circumstances could not, even though that court also possesses the power to control its process.             See R. v. Fercan Developments Inc., at paras. 56-58.   A statutory court’s power to control its own process is necessarily implied in a legislative grant of power to function as a court of law:  R. v. Cunningham, 2010 SCC 10, at para. 51. The power being conferred does not have to be absolutely necessary. It only needs to be practically necessary for the statutory court or tribunal to effectively and efficiently carry out its

By |June 22nd, 2020|Categories: O'Connell Law Blog|Comments Off on Paying out of the Public Purse & the Power of a Statutory Court to Control its Own Process

Robbery (Using a Firearm) and Using a Firearm to Commit a Robbery

The Criminal Code sets out four different ways in which robbery may be committed.  See Section 343, Criminal Code. The offence of robbery does not necessarily involve the use of a firearm. Section 344 sets out the penalty provision for the offence, including where a firearm is used in the commission of the offence. Section 85(1) of the Criminal Code sets out the offence of using a firearm in the commission of an indictable offence.  On its wording, the section 85(1) offence cannot be committed if the indictable offence committed happens to be the offence of robbery. Section 85(1) of the Criminal Code reads: Every person commits an offence who uses a firearm, whether or not the person causes or means to cause bodily harm to any person as a result of using the firearm, (a)        while committing an indictable offence, other than an offence under section … 344 (robbery). In R. v. Cudmore, 2020 ONCA 389, the ONCA quashed the appellant’s conviction for the s. 85(1)(a) offence in light of the appellant’s conviction on the s. 344 robbery offence. This is clearly the right result; however, the ONCA’s finding at paragraph 6 that the use of a firearm is an essential element of the indictable offence of robbery under section 344 of the Criminal Code (which in my view is a penalty provision) is curious. “[I]t is clear that where an accused is convicted of an offence under s. 344, s. 85(1) is not applicable, as the use of a firearm is already an essential element under s. 344.” Proof of the use of a firearm is not an essential element of the offence of robbery. Proof that a firearm was used is relevant to the

By |June 18th, 2020|Categories: O'Connell Law Blog|Comments Off on Robbery (Using a Firearm) and Using a Firearm to Commit a Robbery

Stare Decisis and Superior Court Declarations of Invalidity

Section 52(1) of the Constitution Act, 1982 provides that “any law that is inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution is, to the extent of the inconsistency, of no force or effect” When the Supreme Court of Canada declares a law invalid under s. 52(1), the law is invalid for all future cases; cannot be enforced; is “null and void, and is effectively removed from the statute books. Nova Scotia (Workers' Compensation Board) at para. 31; Canada (Attorney-General) v. Hislop, 2007 SCC 10, [2007] 1 S.C.R. 429, at para. 82. However, that is not the case when a superior court makes a declaration of invalidity: the declaration does not determine the validity or enforcement of the statute “for all future cases”.  R. v. Sullivan, 2020 ONCA 333, at para. 35. Justice Paciocco, writing for himself and Justice Watt in R. v. Sullivan at para. 38, sets out how the principles of stare decisis operate after a superior court judge has made a s. 52(1) declaration of invalidity. The application of the principles of stare decisis to s. 52(1) declarations made by superior court judges does not mean that a superior court declaration will have no effect in other cases. Other superior court judges should respect an earlier declaration of unconstitutionality, absent cogent reason to conclude that the earlier declaration is plainly the result of a wrong decision: R. v. Scarlett, 2013 ONSC 562, at para. 43; Re Hansard Spruce Mils Ltd., [1954] 4 D.L.R. 590 (B.C.S.C.), at p. 592. It is obvious that a superior court judge cannot determine that there is cogent reason to conclude that the earlier decision is plainly wrong without the benefit of argument, facilitated by fair notice to the parties. Therefore, where a party seeks

By |June 16th, 2020|Categories: O'Connell Law Blog|Comments Off on Stare Decisis and Superior Court Declarations of Invalidity

Creating a Successful and Resilient Law Practice

With the COVID-19 outbreak causing a near complete lockdown of the country, life has changed in a huge way. Businesses all over Canada are suffering after having been forced to close their doors roughly two months ago. In most respects, law firms are no different. COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerabilities of many law firms, both small and large, including their reliance on open courts for revenue. As a lawyer, it is easy to get lulled into a false sense of confidence regarding job security. Many people believe that since crime will always exist, criminal lawyers will always be needed. The COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown that has accompanied it has shown that this is not always the case. With courts shut down, even recession proof criminal lawyers have been without work. The pandemic has put into perspective how important it is as a lawyer or any business owner to control expenses and make regular investments in the business. Control Expenses Law firms can experience periods of rapid growth during a strong economy. However, without proper budgeting and planning, they can just as easily find themselves failing during periods of economic downturn. This is especially true when there is little to no notice, as was the case with COVID-19. With overhead expenses remaining and no new business, many law firms have found themselves struggling financially, in some cases, not being able to cover overhead expenses. The best way to avoid this is to consistently manage the firm’s expenses. These expenses include rent, insurance costs, support staff and technology. While it may be tempting to spend more on expenses when the economy is strong, it is important to have overhead expenses that may be managed for a period

Searches and Arrest: Searching Your Vehicle One Way or Another

There are circumstances when the police arrest a person in a vehicle in which the police are authorized, indeed required, to take control of, and responsibility for the vehicle and its contents. In those circumstances, the police are also sometimes authorized to itemize and secure the contents of the vehicle. See R. v. Russell, 2018 BCCA 330; R. v. Cuff, 2018 ONCA 276. Having properly seized a vehicle,  police are under an obligation to keep the vehicle and its contents safe. To fulfill this responsibility, the police may have to conduct an inventory search of the vehicle. R. v. Cuff, 2018 ONCA 276. R. v. Nicolosi (1998), 1998 CanLII 2006 (ON CA), 40 O.R. (3d) 417 (C.A.), at paras. 29-30. The fact that the police suspect that they may find drugs while searching the vehicle does not alter their authority to conduct an inventory search. R. v. Wint, 2009 ONCA 52, 93 O.R. (3d) 514, at para. 11, leave to appeal refused [2009] S.C.C.A. No. 164:  for inventory searches to be meaningful, the police must be able to search and itemize the contents of objects such as purses, wallets and bags to determine their contents. Inventory searches of vehicles are not searches incident to arrest. Where an inventory search is not required (say for instance, when the accused will released immediately after arrest and thus there is not need to seize control of his vehicle), police may (or may not) have the option to conduct a warrantless search of the vehicle under the common law search incident to arrest doctrine.    The police generally do not need to have reasonable and probable grounds to conduct a search incident to arrest – just a reasonable basis for doing so. But see R. v. Saeed, 2016 SCC 24,

By |June 16th, 2020|Categories: O'Connell Law Blog|Comments Off on Searches and Arrest: Searching Your Vehicle One Way or Another

Entrapment: Opportunity to Commit a Crime

The entrapment defence is available when either: 1) “the authorities provide a person with an opportunity to commit an offence without acting on a reasonable suspicion that this person is already engaged in criminal activity or pursuant to a bona fide inquiry”; or 2) “although having such a reasonable suspicion or acting in the course of a bona fide inquiry, they go beyond providing an opportunity and induce the commission of an offence.” R. v. Mack, 1988 CanLII 24 (SCC), at pp. 964-65 The accused must establish the entrapment defence on a balance of probabilities.  Mack, at p. 975. Whatever the mode of trial, the judge ought to consider entrapment only after a finding of guilt. R. v. Imoro, 2010 ONCA 122, at para. 24. In considering entrapment, the court looks at the actions of the police, not of the accused.  One must guard against allowing the nature of the offence to distort the application of the entrapment doctrine. Its application does not depend on the nature of the offence, or its seriousness, or the fact that the offence may be difficult to investigate. Culpability is not the basis for the application of the doctrine. R. v. Ghotra, 2020 ONCA 373, at para. 69 (per Nordheimer J.A., in dissent, but not on this issue).   A Quick Summary of Entrapment Police may only present the opportunity to commit a particular crime to an individual who arouses a suspicion that he or she is already engaged in the particular criminal activity.  The exception to this rule where police are undertaking “a bona fide” investigation directed at an area where it is reasonably suspected that criminal activity is occurring. Where police neither have reasonable suspicion of an individual already engaged in crime,

By |June 12th, 2020|Categories: O'Connell Law Blog|Comments Off on Entrapment: Opportunity to Commit a Crime

Protecting the Right of Appeal: The Problem with Pleading Guilty

An accused is prohibited from appealing an interlocutory ruling, such as a ruling relating to the admissibility of evidence. Instead, the accused is obliged to wait until the end of his trial before he can have the ruling challenged in an appeal. However, plea of guilty is a bar to re-litigation of interlocutory rulings unless the plea of guilty can be set aside on some basis. [FN1] See for instance R. v. Faulkner, 2018 ONCA 174 (CanLII), at para. 101; R. v. Chuhaniuk, 2010 BCCA 403, at paras. 46-49. Where the validity of the plea is raised for the first time on appeal, the appellant has the onus of showing that the plea was invalid. [FN2] Thus, the guilty plea of the accused will impose an additional and sometimes insurmountable obstacle on her appeal.  Where the success or failure of the case for the Crown depends on the result of pre-trial motions, there may be good reason for an accused to plead guilty if she is unsuccessful on those motions.  Doing so spares valuable and limited court resources where it is clear that the admissibility of the evidence is dispositive of guilt.  It may also spare a complainant and others from having to give evidence and from being challenged on that evidence. A guilty plea is usually considered by the sentencing judge as an expression of remorse. By expressing finality to the conviction process, it invites leniency in the sentencing portion of the trial. Additionally, it expedites appellate review. The problem with entering a guilty plea is in preserving the accused’s right to challenge the correctness of a pre-trial ruling.  There is no such thing as a conditional plea of guilty, whereby an accused’s plea of

By |June 11th, 2020|Categories: O'Connell Law Blog|Comments Off on Protecting the Right of Appeal: The Problem with Pleading Guilty