C.M. Callow Inc. v. Tammy Zollinger et al., 2017 ONSC 7095
Decision Date: November 27, 2017
C.M. Callow Inc. is a property maintenance company that provided winter and summer maintenance at a condominium complex in Ottawa, managed by the Condominium Management Group (CMG). CMG terminated the two-year winter maintenance contract with Callow earlier than expected, while Ms. Zollinger was property manager. The issues in this trial were whether CMG was in breach of contract, and if so, what are Callow’s damages?
Callow’s position is that the CMG decided to terminate the winter maintenance contract in March 2013 but did not advise him until Sept 3013. Between March and September, while Callow was fulfilling the summer maintenance contract, Ms. Zollinger and certain board members falsely represented that the winter maintenance contract would be renewed or extended. During this time, Callow provided extra “freebie” services to enhance the property, as an incentive to CMG to renew the two-year contract.
CMG’s position is that Callow’s winter maintenance work did not meet their expectations, and that they were within their rights to terminate the contract with 10-days notice, and they did not falsely represent nor act in bad faith.
This case hinged primarily on two things: the evidence (including emails exchanged among board members and the parties’ credibility), and some fundamental principles of common law contracts. Justice O’Bonsawin favoured the evidence provided by Callow, saying that witnesses for the defendant were prone to exaggeration and answered questions in ways that were at odds with the written record. She found no evidence that Callow’s work was below standard. Furthermore, parties to a contract have a duty to act honestly in their dealings and not seek to undermine the other’s interests in bad faith. CMG actively deceived Callow by not disclosing their intention to terminate the contract. Justice O’Bonsawin awarded damages of just over $80,000 (the value of the contract after expenses and the value of equipment leased in anticipation of fulfilling the contract) to Callow.
Comment: Speak with a lawyer before breaking a contract, no matter how reasonable you believe your position to be.