The case arose from a motor vehicle accident in 2011
The Ontario Court of Appeal has upheld the contempt order issued against a party who persistently refused to attend medical examinations in a personal injury case.
In Steinberg v. Adderley, 2023 ONCA 725, Rudolph Steinberg was involved in a motor vehicle accident 2011. He commenced an action for damages against the respondent, Pamela Adderley.
In 2018, Steinberg cancelled a medical examination requested by the respondent because he could not travel to Toronto. The respondent then motioned to compel Steinberg to attend the medical examination. The court issued an order requiring Steinberg to participate in medical examinations in Toronto without prejudice to his right to bring a future motion to modify or set aside the order because of COVID-19.
Steinberg brought a motion to set aside the court’s order based on COVID-19. However, the motion judge had insufficient evidence to support Steinberg’s position that he should not be required to travel to Toronto due to COVID-19. As a result, the motion judge issued an order requiring Steinberg to attend medical examinations in Toronto.
Steinberg continued to refuse to attend the medical examinations. The court found him in contempt. The court was not satisfied that his condition had worsened or that he could not travel by air or train. The judge also found that Steinberg’s s attempt to move the medical examinations to Thunder Bay was an improper collateral attack on the court’s two previous orders.
Steinberg appealed the judge’s order, finding him in contempt and dismissing his action. He argued that the motion judge committed an error by failing to treat contempt as an order of last resort and by failing to accept that he had a legitimate excuse for not complying with the court’s previous orders.
However, the Ontario Court of Appeal saw no error in the motion judge’s finding of contempt. The court said it was clear from the record that Steinberg deliberately failed to comply with two previous court orders.
The court agreed with Steinberg that contempt orders are not to be made routinely and are meant to be orders of last resort. However, the court found that the motion judge’s finding of contempt was well-supported by his finding that Steinberg’s conduct showed that he was aware of the orders, that their terms were clear, that he deliberately chose not to comply with them, and that he had no intention of complying with them in the future.
The court stressed that the motion judge’s finding of contempt was based on Steinberg’s persistent refusal to comply with the court’s orders.
Further, the court saw no error in the motion judge’s decision that the appropriate penalty was to dismiss the action. The court pointed to the rule that the penalty for a finding of contempt is discretionary and entitled to deference. Ultimately, the court dismissed Steinberg’s appeal.