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Adequate Arguments for Appealing on the Basis of Inadequacy of Reasons

Appellate courts have commented on an “unfortunate trend” in appeals whereby appellants allege inadequacy of reasons in a lower court’s decision in order to add heft to an otherwise weak appeal to the point where such an allegation appears to be “boilerplate” in appeals.[1]

In the recent case of Farej v Fellows,[2] the Court of Appeal for Ontario has provided helpful guidance in assessing whether there is a legitimate basis for appealing on the basis of inadequacy of reasons.

A comment that is made in discussing the relevant legal principles can be used by litigants as a good starting point: There is likely sufficient reasons if a party is able to attack the sufficiency of the evidence, the reasonableness of the factual findings, or allege legal errors in the trial judge’s analysis. However, if a party is submitting that they cannot make any effective arguments about potential errors (such as the ones previously mentioned) because the reasons do not provide a window into the trial judge’s conclusions and reasoning process necessary to make such arguments, then there is more likely a valid argument for inadequacy of reasons.

The Court of Appeal emphasized two points raised in the jurisprudence for assessing the sufficiency of reasons:

  1. Functionally: Whether reasons can functionally permit meaningful appellate review must be considered. Even if there are shortcomings in the reasons, an inadequacy argument fails if a meangingful appellate review can be conducted.
  2. Contextually: The context of the finding must be considered. Context includes the issues raised at trial, the evidence adduced, and the arguments made before the trial judge. The example given is that it cannot be argued that reasons are inadequate merely because a minor issue at trial receives minor appearance in the reasons.

Farej was an appeal of a medical negligence case in which the trial judge found the defendant not to be liable. The Plaintiffs appealed on the basis of inadequacy of reasons. The Court of Appeal analyzed the reasons by considering both the functionality and the context in determining whether the trial judge provided sufficient reasons. The Court of Appeal agreed that the reasons did not permit meaningful appellate review with respect to some, but not all, of the findings identified by the appellants. The appellants’ arguments were accepted in instances where it was not a case of “minor factual matters,” but rather where the trial judge failed to describe how she arrived at significant conclusions, such as her finding on causation.

In this decision, the Court of Appeal was nonetheless cautious to prevent opening a door for appellants to make mountains out of molehills. For example, reference is made to a recent Supreme Court case in which appellate courts are discouraged from reviewing a trial judge’s reasons with an overly critical eye.[3] Most telling is when the Court of Appeal rejected the appellants’ argument with respect to some of the trial judge’s findings despite agreeing that the trial judge had made “missteps” in coming to those findings. Regardless, in assessing the functionality and context of those missteps, the Court of Appeal concluded that the overall reasoning of those findings did not constitute inadequate.

This case provides good insight on how appellate courts are thinking about the ground of inadequacy of reasons. It is important to consider the Court of Appeal’s guidance in deciding whether there is a valid argument to be made in this regard. If there are significant findings for which a judge on first instance has failed to properly articulate their reasoning in that an appellate court will be unable to conduct a meaningful review, there is support in the caselaw for this appeal ground to be raised. However, be careful not to fall victim of a “boilerplate” argument if the concerns raised about the trial reasons are unfairly critical in the overall context of the case.

Case Information

Farej v. Fellows, 2022 ONCA 254

Docket C68515

Date: March 29, 2022


[1] Gendron v. Doug C. Thompson Ltd. (Thompson Fuels), 2019 ONCA 293 at para. 93, leave to appeal refused [2019] S.C.C.A. No. 228.

[2] Farej v. Fellows, 2022 ONCA 254.

[3] R. v. G.F., 2021 SCC 20 at para 79.



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