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List of Ontario Civil Causes of Action

In Ontario, civil causes of action, or legal claims between parties, must generally be based upon a ‘recognized cause of action,’ (i.e. generally an established legal theory upon which the court has authority to grant relief), with breach of contract and negligence perhaps being the two most common. In most cases, legal authority flows either from statute, or through judge made common law, which has (largely) developed through judicial decisions reached over the last millenia.

Most of the time, lawsuits are commenced by way of a ‘Statement of Claim’, which ideally, concisely sets forth the facts along with the legal theories under which relief is claimed. In many cases, especially for those matters originating in a commercial context, this requires the drafter to spend time researching various causes of action, along with the required elements thereto (and potential defences), which is not always the most productive use of either time or a client’s resources. With that in mind, I have attempted to create a list of common (but by no means a complete) causes of action and defences.

Business Related Causes of Action

  • Agency
  • Alter Ego
  • Arthur Wishart (Franchise) Act
  • Breach of Duty of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
  • Breach of the Duty of Honest Performance
  • Breach of Fiduciary Duty
  • Breach of Non-Compete
  • Breach of Non-Solicitation
  • Breach of Warranty, Express, Implied, Fitness for a Particular Purpose and/or Merchantibility
  • Consumer Protection Act
  • Constructive Trust
  • Corporations Act (Federal and/or Provincial as applicable)
  • Equitable Assignment
  • Misleading Advertisement
  • Indoor Management Rule
  • Passing Off
  • Piercing the corporate veil
  • Specific Performance
  • Strict Liability
  • Respondeat Superior
  • Resulting Trust
  • Tortious Interference with Business Relations
  • Vicarious Liability


  • Breach of Contract
  • Implied Contract
  • Indemnity
  • Promissory Note
  • Quantum Meruit
  • Rescission
  • Rectification
  • Tortious Interference with Contractual Relationship
  • Unconscionability
  • Unjust Enrichment
  • Wrongful Dismissal (inadequate notice)

Defamation and Privacy

  • Defamation
  • Intrusion upon Seclusion
  • Invasion of Privacy

Fraud and Negligent Misrepresentation

  • Constructive Fraud
  • Fraud
  • Fraud in the Inducement
  • Fraudulent Misrepresentation
  • Negligent Misrepresentation


  • Dog Owners’ Liability Act
  • Intentional Infliction of Severe Emotional Distress
  • Legal Malpractice
  • Medical Malpractice
  • Motor Vehicle Negligence
  • Negligence Act
  • Negligence
  • Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress
  • Negligent Inspection (building code – municipal liability)
  • Negligent Investigation
  • Negligent Supervision
  • Occupier’s Liability Act
  • Parental Responsibility Act
  • Professional Negligence (other)
  • Slip and Fall
  • Wrongful Death

Physical Torts

  • Assault
  • Battery
  • False Imprisonment

Procedural Torts

  • Abuse of Process
  • Charging Order
  • Declaratory Judgment
  • Human Rights Act (violation of)
  • Judicial Review
  • Malicious Prosecution
  • Mandamus Order
  • Prohibition Order
  • Registration of Foreign Judgment
  • Vexatious Litigant

Real and Personal Property and Construction

  • Adverse Possession
  • Building Code Violation
  • Cancellation of Deed
  • Certificate of Pending Litigation
  • Conversion
  • Detinue
  • Ejectment
  • Equitable Lien
  • Eviction of Tenant
  • Forcible Entry and Detention
  • Inverse Condemnation
  • Mortgage Foreclosure
  • Nuisance
  • Prescriptive Easement
  • Recovery of personal property
  • Slander of Title
  • Wrongful Distress

The above list is intended to be summary in nature, and contains the majority of claims I have seen during my time practicing. It is generally limited to civil claims, where one party is seeking money from the other. For a more detailed list, I would encourage you to review Crookston Law’s Canadian legal causes of action and remedies page, which is available here.

Defences and Affirmative Defences

Various types of defences are typically asserted in response to a claim (in the Statement of Defence). The most common are flat denials, which need little explanation. Next, it is common to see the defendant set forth their version of the facts. Finally, affirmative defences are typically asserted. Affirmative defences may be based on statute, common law, or the particular facts of the case. They are typically in the nature of ‘confession and avoidance,’ meaning that while they acknowledge that the events in the claim occurred, there is a legal reason why the defendant should be excused from liability. Affirmative defences may include (but are not limited to):

  • Abuse of Process
  • Accord and Satisfaction
  • Anticipatory Breach
  • Assumption of the Risk
  • Bankruptcy
  • Breach of Contract
  • Breach of the Duty of Good Faith and Fair Dealing
  • Contributory Negligence
  • Consent
  • Crumbling Skull
  • Estoppel
  • Failure of Condition Precedent
  • Failure to Disclose a Cause of Action
  • Failure to Mitigate Damages
  • Force Majeure
  • Fraud
  • Fraud in the Inducement
  • Frustration of Purpose
  • Intervening/Superceding Cause
  • Justification
  • Laches
  • Lack of Consideration (total or partial failure of consideration)
  • Merger Doctrine
  • Mistake (unilateral and/or mutual mistake)
  • Parol Evidence
  • Release
  • Remoteness (indirect, excessive)
  • Res Judicata
  • Set Off
  • Spoliation of evidence
  • Standing (lack of)
  • Statute of Frauds
  • Statute of Limitations
  • Truth (defamation)
  • Threshold (auto)
  • Unclean hands
  • Unenforceable (onerous) term
  • Unjust Enrichment
  • Unconscionability
  • Waiver

In the event the plaintiff proves their claim (and is otherwise entitled to relief), the burden then shifts to the defendant to establish all require elements of their affirmative defences.

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