Legal Word of the Day: “Attorn”

Attorn – The act of formally transferring or turning over something to another party. The term is commonly used regarding the jurisdiction of the courts, or the transfer of real property to another owner.

Attorning the jurisdiction of the courts, according to Justice Lang in M.J. Jones Inc. v. Kingsway General Insurance Co., “is well-accepted law that a foreign defendant that engages on the merits of the action will be taken to have ‘attorned’ to the domestic court’s jurisdiction. Most cases, however, have considered actions taken voluntarily by the defendant to be attornment to the jurisdiction.”

Participating in court proceedings can result in attornment to a specific court jurisdiction. In the Ontario Court of Appeal Van Damme v. Gelber decision, Justice Doherty reiterated a previous court decision:


    Attornment by participation in court proceedings was recently addressed by the Ontario Court of Appeal, where Goudge J.A. said:

    “[W]hen a party to an action appears in court and goes beyond challenging the jurisdiction of the court based on jurisdiction simpliciter and forum non conveniens, the party will be regarded as appearing voluntarily, thus giving the court consent-based jurisdiction. That is what happened here.”

With respect to real property, when the ownership of the real property has been transferred to a new owner, the property has been attorned. For example, when the ownership of a rental property changes, whether to a new landlord or to a mortgagee, the tenants are expected to receive a “Notice of Attornment” which informs tenants to whom to make rent payments.

Related Information & Cases
Paralegal Karen FairResearched and written by Karen Fair, a paralegal and Paralegal Scope contributor. Read her case summaries at CanLII Connects.

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