OVERVIEW: During Unit 9 of this course, you will be asked to write a case brief at the same time that you are studying a unit called the Sale of Goods and Consumer Protection Law. The case brief you'll be asked to create will be based upon a sale of goods judgment that you are already familiar with from the BC Court of Appeal website: Rushak v. Henneken.
A fair question to ask is: why it is important to learn how to brief a case? The purpose for helping you to learn this skill is a practical one. Oftentimes the required form of something shapes or drives the content. Mastering a form can be difficult, but it can help you achieve meaning and significance in your writing. A fragment of a line from the poet Dylan Thomas creates an image of this form-to-content relationship: "the force that through the green fuse drives the flower...." Learning how to brief cases allows you to see more clearly the similarities between and among cases, and to distinguish others. The whole common law system of precedent is founded on this ability to precisely compare case law.
Competencies that you have been gradually gaining through previous learning activities in earlier units will, once again, inform and support your ability to complete this assignment. Specifically, you have already:
- watched a video of Professor Wendell's very basic introduction to how to brief a case
- read an article called "How to Brief a Case Using the IRAC Method"
- watched Suzanne Bachard explain a paralegal's perspective on legal writing using the IRAC method
- watched James C. Raymond explain what he terms the architecture of a judgment
- practiced writing the facts of a case, its issues, and, after identifying the legal rule that governs the issue, analyzing how the legal rule applies to the issue, and
Sample Case Brief
To give you an idea of the format to use, read the case of Toronto Marlboro Major Junior "A" Hockey Club et al. v. Tonelli et al., 1979 CanLII 1969 (ON CA) at
This case deals with contracts formed on behalf of infants, inequality of bargaining power and discussion of the meaning of what is "beneficial" to an infant. It is concerned with a quintessential Canadian topic - hockey. The following brief is not perfect but it should give students a concrete example of one way to analyze a case.
Toronto Marlboro Major Junior "A" Hockey Club et al. v. Tonelli et al. 23 O.R. (2d) 193; 96 D.L.R. (3d) 135 (1979)
History (procedural posture)
Action for damages against Tonelli for breach of contract and against his agent Badali et al. for conspiracy to bring about breach of contract.
Appeal from decision of Ontario High Court declaring the contract unenforceable on ground that Marlboro et al. had not discharged their onus to prove contract was beneficial to Tonelli.
Appeal dismissed. 2:1 decision.
In 1973 when Tonelli was 16, he and his father signed a 2 year contract with Marlboro.
In 1974, Marlboro unilaterally terminated this contract and required all players to sign what amounted to a new 4 year contract which included a clause requiring players to pay Marlboro 20% of gross earnings received from employment by a professional hockey team if such employment commenced within 3 years after termination of the 1974 contract. Players were expressly forbidden from playing with any other team while the contract was in force.
On September 1974, Tonelli on the advice of his agent Badali signed the contract. Tonelli's father also signed as required.
On March 24, 1975, one day after his 18th birthday, Tonelli repudiated the contract and signed with a professional team for $320,000 for 3 years (Badali acting as his agent).
- What is the meaning of beneficial in the context of contracts made by infants?
- Was the contract of service signed by Tonelli beneficial to him at the time it was made and thus enforceable as an exception to the general rule that contracts signed by minors are unenforceable or voidable at the option of the infant.
A contract made by an infant (someone under the age of majority) is unenforceable against that infant unless it is beneficial to the infant at the time the contract is made.
Majority considered the contract as a whole to see if any benefits which might accrue to Tonelli outweighed the effect of its onerous clauses, looking at:
- Circumstances surrounding signing of the contract;
- Relative positions of the parties (Whose interests should best be protected?);
- Advantages versus disadvantages to Tonelli at time of signing.
Re 1) and 2) - Since the contract was not freely negotiated (Tonelli had no realistic alternative but to sign) and positions of the parties were so unequal, the court should be careful to protect the weaker party, especially when he was an infant at time of signing. Also the arbitrary cancellation of the first contract showed no respect by Marlboro for mutual rights and obligations.
Re 3) -From an economic standpoint, section 5 of the contract was clearly disadvantageous, considering the short average earning period for professional players. Court of Appeal differed from Trial J. on the definition of "benefit." Trial J thought only economic benefit should be taken into account. C.A considered that more than mere economic advantages and disadvantages were of importance. Disadvantages could be measured in terms of both money and time. (That is, the unnecessary extension of Tonelli's amateur status.)
Section 4 was to his benefit re training etc. but by 1974, Tonelli's skill was such that he did not need a further 4 years to prepare for pro hockey. Instead of promoting his career, the contract hindered it.
The contract was principally used to advance the interest of Marlboro and not for the benefit of Tonelli.
Zuber J. believed that the test should be whether a prudent, well-informed parent would approve the contract. Here he would. The contract was beneficial since it provided the only way to a professional career. $64,000 was not onerous considering Tonelli's total earnings.
Conclusion (could be framed as "ratio")
Beneficial, in the context of a contract with an infant, is not restricted to a monetary benefit but can encompass other factors such as time and inequality of bargaining power when weighing advantages against disadvantages.
If a contract of service made with an infant is not of benefit to that infant at the time it is made, it is not enforceable when it is repudiated as soon as the infant reaches majority
Your Case Brief
Please write a case brief of the BC Court of Appeal's Rushak v. Henneken judgment using the IRAC method. Provide the name of the case and the case citation. Then provide the procedural history of the case. As your next heading, please use the title Facts, and include under it the answers to James C. Raymond's questions:
- WDWTW: who did what to whom? Or WAAW: who is arguing about what?
Then continue in the usual format using the IRAC headings as follows:
- Issue: identify the issue raised by the client's case
- Rule: identify the rule of law that governs the issue
- Analysis or application: explain how the rule of law applies to the issue
- Conclusion: answer the question originally asked in the issue
This assignment, as mentioned earlier, is due in week 9, and is worth 15% of your total mark for this course.
- Unit 7, End of Unit: This is a practice exercise. Please control/click on the link for the British Columbia Court of Appeals database (http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/search_judgments.aspx#SearchTitle). As you have done before, please locate the Arens v. MSA Ford Sales Ltd. case. Recall that in Unit 6 you isolated the issue(s) of the case. Now, in preparation for actually writing your case brief, please re-read the case as Professor Wendell advises, keeping in mind that you will now be requested to complete the following tasks:
- Identify the legal rule that governs the issue(s), and
- Conduct an analysis or application of how the legal rule applies to the issue(s).
- Unit 9, End of Unit: Please control/click on the link for the British Columbia Court of Appeals and Supreme Court database (http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/search_judgments.aspx#SearchTitle). Following the search method you have used before, please locate theRushak v. Henneken case. It is now time for you to create the case brief that you will submit to your instructor. Please follow the headings in the sample case brief as you prepare your own case brief.