On July 15-18, three members of the Tort Law Research Group, Erika Chamberlain, Jason Neyers, and Zoë Sinel, presented papers at the Seventh Biennial Conference on the Law of Obligations (Obligations VII): The Common Law of Obligations: Divergence and Convergence, held at Hong Kong University.
In her paper, “Revisiting Canada’s Approach to Fiduciary Relationships,” Professor Chamberlain defended the view that fiduciary obligations can extend to protect non-pecuniary interests. In particular, she examined the application of fiduciary principles to the physician-patient relationship, childhood sexual abuse, and certain obligations owed by the Crown. Professor Neyers’ paper, “The Tort of Public Nuisance in England and Canada,” had two aims. First, it examined areas of the law where English and Canadian courts have come to divergent results in relation to controversial issues in the tort of public nuisance. Second, it suggested a point of convergence—namely, what answers the courts should supply if they recognized the coherent core at the heart of the tort. The thesis of the paper was that the tort of public nuisance exists to protect private rights akin to easements and profits that subjects enjoy over Crown property. Reviewing recent scholarship on the law of unjust enrichment, Professor Sinel criticized the trend to focus on method at the expense of substance. In her paper, “The Methods and Madness of Unjust Enrichment,” she concluded that our current preoccupation with whether Canada’s approach to the reason(s) for restitution is civilian or common law has hijacked and confused the more fundamental inquiry into what injustice in the context of unjust enrichment means.
Obligations VII was the seventh in a series of biennial conferences on the law of obligations. The obligations conferences bring together scholars, judges, and practitioners from throughout the common law world to discuss current issues in contract law, the law of torts, equity, and unjust enrichment. The series originated at the University of Melbourne in 2002 and has become a significant international forum for discussion between scholars and practitioners in the field. In 2012, spearheaded by Professors Chamberlain, Neyers, and Stephen Pitel, Western’s Faculty of Law played host to the previous obligations conference, Obligations VI: Challenging Orthodoxy. The participation of three Western professors – the highest turnout from any North American law school – thus cemented Western’s position as a key contributor to private law scholarship and conversation at the international level.