Obligations in Private Law
Canadian Legal Studies Series

Brettel Dawson    (Ed.)

Captus Press, ISBN 978-1-55322-252-1 (2012)
450 pages, 1000 g, 8.5 X 11, $57.25 (US$45.75)

Obligations in Private Law is an edited collection of cases and academic writing that provides an account of the private law of obligations in Canada, including tort law, contract law, unjust enrichment, fiduciary obligations and the protection of reliance. Developed to examine the concepts employed by private law for creating and enforcing legal obligations between persons within society. Material is primarily Canadian and is augmented with a wide range of Commonwealth sources including those from the United Kingdom and New Zealand. The materials close with an invitation to use theory to gain a deeper appreciation of and perspective on the various values and concepts that are in play in the field of private law of obligations.

The materials are compiled to inspire and “provoke” class discussion with animating questions such as the following:

  • Is tort law a sentinel of safety?
  • What interests does private law seek to protect and promote through the law of obligations?
  • How do the contours of private law obligation reflect (changing) social and economic contexts and philosophical (theoretical) tenets?
  • How do the courts navigate and balance policy considerations in responding to new situations?

By the end of their study of these materials, readers will be able to:

  • Differentiate between the kinds of obligations in private law
  • Identify the essential principles of obligation in each branch as derived from leading cases
  • Explain how private law principles reflect social and economic objectives
  • Link policy considerations and normative vision of judges to legal outcomes
  • Contrast the approaches of the common law and equity particularly in relation to defective transactions and broken relationships
  • Reconcile residual principles in private law (such as reliance, confidentiality and conscience) to the dominant principles of inviolability, and exchange in the market.

A class-tested, well-thought selection of materials make Obligations in Private Law a stimulating learning resource, perfect as a primary text for courses on private law in legal studies and law and society programs, and an excellent secondary resource for university private law courses.

Table of Contents   top

Introduction and Preface

1.  Legal Categories and Private Law Obligations

  1. Private Right and Public Interest (Stephen Waddams)
  2. Unjust Enrichment, Quasi-Contract and Restitution: A Study in Organizing Legal Rules (R.A. Samek)
  3. Norberg v. Wynrib (Supreme Court of Canada)


2.  The Glorious Principle and Its Proximity Gloss

  1. Donoghue (or McAlister) v. Stevenson (U.K. House of Lords)
  2. Kamloops v. Nielsen (Supreme Court of Canada)
  3. Cooper v. Hobart (Supreme Court of Canada)
  4. After Cooper v Hobart (Honourable Mr. Justice A.M. Linden)

3.  Contours of Obligation in Negligence

  1. Arland and Arland v. Taylor (Ontario Court of Appeal)
  2. Negligence Law: The “Reasonable Person” Standard as an Example of Male Naming and the Implicit Male Norm (Leslie Bender)
  3. Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. (New York Court of Appeals)
  4. Clarifying Causation in Tort (Erik S. Knutsen)
  5. Discussion Problem: The Careful Pedestrian and the Feckless Driver
  6. A Critique of Torts (Richard L. Abel)
  7. The State of Canadian Tort Law (Honourable Justice A.M. Linden)

4.  Case Studies

A.  Social Host Liability

  1. Jordan House Ltd. v. Menow (Supreme Court of Canada)
  2. Stewart v. Pettie (Supreme Court of Canada)
  3. Childs v. Desormeaux (Supreme Court of Canada)
  4. Supreme Court Couldn’t Rule on Compassion in Party Host Case (Michelle Mann)
  5. Before You Host a Party, Read This: Social Host Liability and the Decision in Childs v. Desormeaux (Fiona Kelly)
  6. E-link(s) and Further Reading

B.  Police Investigations

  1. Hill v. Chief Constable of West Yorkshire (U.K. House of Lords)
  2. Doe v. Metropolitan Toronto (Municipality) Commissioners of Police (Ontario Court of Justice (Gen. Div.))
  3. Tort Actions for Police Failures in Gendered Violence Cases (Melanie Randall)
  4. Hill v. Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Police Services Board (Supreme Court of Canada)
  5. “Denying Justice”: Does the Tort of Negligent Investigation Go Far Enough? (Rakhi Ruparelia)


5.  The Emergence of Contract Law: Exchange and the Market

  1. Peevyhouse v. Garland Coal & Mining Co. (Supreme Court of Oklahoma)
  2. Traditional Contract Law: An Interplay of Classical and Neo-Classical Rules (T. Brettel Dawson)
  3. Contract Law in Perspective (Linda Mulcahy)
  4. Non-contractual Relations in Business: A Preliminary Study (Stewart Macaulay)

6.  Contractual Obligations: Then and Now

A.  Formation

  1. Carlill v. Carbolic Smoke Ball Co. (England and Wales Court of Appeal)
  2. Balfour v. Balfour (U.K. Court of Appeal)
  3. Contract Law in Perspective (Linda Mulcahy)
  4. Gendis Inc. v. Richardson Oil & Gas Ltd. (Manitoba Court of Appeal)
  5. Electricity Corporation of New Zealand Limited v. Fletcher Challenge Energy Limited (Court of Appeal of New Zealand)
  6. E-link(s) and Further Reading

B.  Terms and Exemptions

  1. L’Estrange v. F Graucob Ltd. (U.K. King’s Bench)
  2. Thornton v. Shoe Lane Parking Limited (U.K. Court of Appeal)
  3. Tilden Rent-A-Car Co. v. Clendenning (Ontario Court of Appeal)
  4. Tercon Contractors Ltd. v. British Columbia (Transportation and Highways) (Supreme Court of Canada)

7.  Consideration and Evolution in Agreement

  1. Stilk v. Myrick (U.K. King’s Bench)
  2. Central London Property Trust Limited v. High Trees House Limited (U.K. King’s Bench)
  3. Gilbert Steel Ltd. v. University Construction Ltd. (Ontario Court of Appeal)
  4. Williams v. Roffey Brothers & Nicholls (Contractors) Ltd. (Court of Appeal (Civil Division))
  5. Contract Law in Perspective (Linda Mulcahy)
  6. Estoppel and Relational Contracts (T. Brettel Dawson)


8.  Defective Transactions

  1. Unjust Enrichment: Its Role and Its Limits (John D. McCamus)
  2. Moses v. Macpherlan (Court of King’s Bench)
  3. Deglman v. Guaranty Trust Co. of Canada and Constantineau (Supreme Court of Canada)
  4. Peel (Regional Municipality) v. Canada; Peel (Regional Municipality) v. Ontario (Supreme Court of Canada)

9.  Broken Relationships

  1. The Essence of Modern Equity and The Trust (Bruce Ziff)
  2. Murdoch v. Murdoch (Supreme Court of Canada)
  3. Rathwell v. Rathwell (Supreme Court of Canada)
  4. Pettkus v. Becker (Supreme Court of Canada)
  5. Kerr v. Baranow (Supreme Court of Canada)


10.  Reliance

  1. Reliance (Stephen Waddams)
  2. Taylor Fashions Ltd v. Liverpool Victoria Friendly Society (England and Wales High Court)
  3. Gillett v. Holt (England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division))
  4. Yeoman’s Row Management Limited v. Cobbe (U.K. House of Lords)
  5. Promissory Estoppel, Proprietary Estoppel and Constructive Trust in Canada: “What’s in a name?” (Jane Matthews Glenn)

11.  Fiduciary Obligation

  1. Canadian Aero Service Ltd v. O’Malley (Supreme Court of Canada)
  2. Frame v. Smith (Supreme Court of Canada)
  3. Lac Minerals Ltd. v. International Corona Resources Ltd. (Supreme Court of Canada)
  4. Hodgkinson v. Simms (Supreme Court of Canada)
  5. Reliance (Re-visited) (Stephen Waddams)
  6. The Fiduciary Concept, Contract Law, and Unjust Enrichment: A Functional Comparison (Leonard I. Rotman)

12.  Inequality of Bargaining Power

  1. Lloyds Bank v. Bundy (England and Wales Court of Appeal (Civil Division))
  2. Harry v. Kreutziger (Court of Appeal for British Columbia)
  3. The Synthetic Approach and Unjustifiable Enrichment (R.A. Samek)
  4. Doing Theory in First Year Contracts: The Iceberg Method (Richard Devlin, Anthony Duggan and Louise Langevin)

Instructor Resources   top

Related Resources   top

About the Author   top

Brettel Dawson is an Associate Professor of Law at Carleton University in Ottawa. Her teaching subjects include gender, human rights, judicial decision-making and judicial process, private law and socio-legal research methods.

Professor Dawson has written in the areas of social context judicial education, women and legal process, human rights, and legal research methodology. A past English Language Co-Editor of the Canadian Journal of Women and the Law and a past member of the External Committee of the Independent Policy Research Fund of Status of Women Canada, she is currently a member of the Board of Directors of CANADEM, Canada’s resource database for human rights and democratic development.