Wife’s Pleadings Struck in Light of Continuing Contempt of Court

In an Ontario Superior Court of Justice case, the wife, who was a doctor, had failed to comply with court-ordered disclosure by failing to produce certain information required and requested by the husband, such as corporate tax returns, notices of assessment and lease agreements.  She had also failed to comply with several court orders to pay court costs, which totalled about $12,500.

In August of 2011, the wife was found in contempt of court, but was given several opportunities to purge that contempt by making the ordered payments by a certain date.  However, she continued to neglect or resist paying, and asked for hearings on the matter to be rescheduled to which she never showed up to, claiming she was in a depressive state.  She produced a letter from her family physician, indicating that she was under extreme mental stress and depress and advising that she should take time off from all legal issues. The Court ordered her to produce additional medical documentation by a certain date, which she also failed to do.

Eventually, the husband brought a motion to strike out the wife’s pleadings, on the basis that they should not be allowed to stand because she was in contempt, had failed to purge that contempt and had failed to pay newer outstanding costs orders as well.  The wife’s, counsel submitted that while her compliance has ‘not been perfect’, this ws not a case of deliberate non-compliance with the Court’s orders.

The Court found in favour of the husband; the wife’s pleadings were struck out.  Although the letter from the wife’s doctor explained her inability to attend the various hearings, the Court found that it did not explain her unwillingness or inability to comply with the assorted orders to pay.

Certainly, an order to strike the wife’s pleadings was an extreme remedy, but the Court was left with no alternative in light of her continuing non-compliance together with the lack of evidence that she ever intended to comply with the Court orders in the near future.  Her pleadings were accordingly struck, and the husband had leave to proceed with an undefended trial.  Additional cost orders were imposed on the wife in order to compensate the husband for having to appear at ‘five attendances instead of one’.