Protracted Negotiations

Screening committees often negotiate undertakings with practitioners to resolve concerns, particularly in cases involving standards of practice. Sometimes discussions negotiating the precise terms of the undertaking become protracted. In Dabao v Investigation Committee of the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses’ Association, 2020 SKQB 242 (CanLII), http://canlii.ca/t/j9xpc the screening committee indicated a willingness to resolve concerns with an undertaking signed by the practitioner. Over a period of two months negotiations continued. The regulator granted a number of extensions to the practitioner. Finally a deadline was imposed by the regulator that the undertaking had to be signed as it then read by January 2nd. On December 31st the practitioner suggested some additional amendments, but indicated that she would sign the undertaking if they were rejected. Unsurprisingly the regulator did not respond by January 2nd. The practitioner did not sign the undertaking. Later that month the screening committee referred the matter to discipline.

The practitioner sought judicial review of the decision to refer to discipline because she had a legitimate expectation that the matter would be resolved and because it was unfair for the regulator to change its mind without giving her a chance to sign the undertaking as worded.

The Court rejected those arguments:

Ms. Dabao argues the Investigation Committee chose to resolve the matter with a CCRA, as permitted under the Bylaws. The SRNA agrees the committee decided to resolve the matter, if Ms. Dabao signed the CCRA. However, Ms. Dabao had two months to sign the CCRA and did not do so. Consequently, the committee moved the matter on to a discipline hearing.

I do not agree with Ms. Dabao that the Investigation Committee established a legitimate expectation and failed to follow through. As such, I do not find that the Investigation Committee failed in its duty to provide Ms. Dabao with procedural fairness by thwarting her legitimate expectations. Her application to quash the January 9, 2020 decision of the Investigation Committee is dismissed.

Practitioners ignore such deadlines at their peril.

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