Individuals and corporations alike have routinely walked away from pursuing disputes in the courts or have settled cases for three reasons which were seen as antithetical to obtaining “justice” – the judicial system has been seen as too costly, too slow and too unsatisfactory. The Ontario Legislature has introduced dramatic change to the Rules of Civil Procedure to come into effect January, 2010 which ought to change those perceptions and encourage the use of the judicial system for the resolution of disputes.

The following are the highlights:

  • Small Claims Court will be available for claims up to $25,000.
  • The Simplified Rules procedure which will limit examinations for discovery to 2 hours and limit trial time will apply to claims of up to $100,000.
  • For claims in excess of $100,000, discovery will be limited to 7 hours per party. This single change will substantially increase the affordability of litigation.
  • Discovery questions will be limited to clearly relevant issues. • The process for document disclosure will be governed by proportionality considerations and the requirement of co-operation amongst counsel. More complex cases fairly requiring more discovery will have additional discovery rights.
  • Summary judgment procedures which permit parties the prospect of having a court rule on their cases at an early stage will be far more widely available. • All cases will be timetabled. Parties can change timetables acting reasonably but will be punished for abuse.
  • Parties will be able to have liability issues determined separately from remedies. This will encourage parties to be far more realistic about pursuing questionable positions.

Increased access to the courts was seen as being fundamental to enhance Ontario’s justice system by ensuring its affordability and effectiveness. These changes will significantly modify how lawyers conduct themselves and their cases in the process.

You are encouraged to ask your lawyers what they will be doing to ensure you understand how the new system is likely to affect you and your business.