Humby et al. v. R. et al. – FCt: – Tort Claims Arising out of Collection Proceedings Dismissed

Bill Innes on Current Tax Cases New Window

Humby et al. v. The Queen et al.[1] (November 8, 2013) is a sad case involving the loss of a personal business empire in Newfoundland as a result of CRA collection actions.  Nevertheless at the end of the day the Federal Court held that there was nothing illegal in the conduct of CRA or the Newfoundland Office of the High Sheriff:

[1]               This was an action against the 1st Defendant, in fact the Canada Revenue Agency [CRA], and the Office of the High Sheriff of Newfoundland and Labrador, the 2nd Defendant, in respect to the enforcement of tax judgments against the Plaintiffs. The allegations are wide sweeping but, properly focused, relate to the seizure and sale of real and personal property in Gander and Benton, Newfoundland and Labrador.

[2]               This has not been an easy matter to decipher and these Reasons attempt to organize the case into recognizable issues. The Court is cognizant of the emotional toll that this decision may cause the principal plaintiff, Eli Humby, but neither he nor his companies are entitled to any of the relief claimed.

[3]               The corporate Plaintiffs were assessed taxes for, among other matters, failure to remit the employees’ source tax deductions. The amounts were certified in the Federal Court and collection actions commenced. The tax assessments were confirmed in part. Therefore, the Plaintiffs owed tax moneys which were not paid. The 1st Defendant was entitled to collect; the 2nd Defendant acted on the seizure and sale of assets owned by the Plaintiffs.

[4]               The Plaintiffs claim damages for what they say were the unlawful acts of the Defendants in enforcing the confirmed assessments.

[5]               As this Court has found, the Defendants’ actions were lawful; the corporate Plaintiffs owed the money and failed to pay. Collection was authorized and carried out in accordance with the law.

This is an extremely long decision (181 paragraphs) involving multiple claims by the plaintiffs and extremely detailed findings of fact.  The court systematically rejected all of the bases for claim by the various plaintiffs and also rejected their damage claims.  The result is likely best summarized by the following passage:

[174]       The most significant aspect of Humby’s general damages claim is that related to his medical condition. It was his assertion that the deterioration in his physical and mental health was attributable to the actions of the Defendants.

[175]       It is no doubt difficult for Humby to face what has happened; it is difficult no doubt for his family and friends to see the change in this man. To watch the demise of one’s business empire is tragic.  However, the Defendants are not legally responsible for Humby’s pain and suffering.

[176]       The evidence establishes that Humby’s decline, his anxiety and mood disorders began in the early 2000s. His doctor’s medical evidence establishes that Humby’s medical issues are coincident with the financial difficulties due to the loss of the wood supply and the litigation commenced by Humby against numerous parties.

[177]       The evidence establishes that if the stress of seizure and sale of assets may have added to Humby’s problems, they were not the cause. There is also a significant issue of lack of mitigation which needs not be explored here.

[178]       The Court wishes that there was a way to cushion, for Humby, the results of this decision and to lessen his adverse reaction to the results of the litigation in which, according to medical evidence, he apparently has put such personal and emotional reliance.

[179]       There is no evidence to suggest that even if the Plaintiffs were entitled to some damages (to which they are not), an award of punitive or exemplary damages should be made.


[180]       At the end of the day the Plaintiffs cannot avoid the fact that they owed tax moneys, that they failed to pay the amounts due and therefore the CRA was entitled to seize and sell assets to satisfy the amounts due. The Plaintiffs cannot also avoid the fact that the High Sheriff’s Office carried out its duties as required by law and “in good faith and in a commercially reasonable manner”.

This case is the sad denouement of a 2010 decision of the Tax Court which was, in part, very critical of CRA’s conduct.[2]

[1] 2013 FC 1136.

[2] Central Springs Limited et al. v. The Queen, 2010 TCC 543. New Window