2010 was a year of change in the way trial lawyers were able to conduct law suits in Ontario. The two areas of most significant change were matters that are $ 25 001 – $ 100 000 and those under $ 25 000.00.
A. Changes to the Simplified Procedure($ 25 001.00 – $ 100 000.00)
The biggest change to the Simplified Procedure in January 2010 was the addition of two hours of discoveries. This change has significantly slowed down the length of time it takes a Simplified matter to get to trial – adding at least 6 months to the average case – very frustrating.
The addition of discoveries has also increased legal fees on these matters. If they had instead eliminated oral discoveries & allowed 4 pages of written discoveries instead, it would move much more quickly & with less expense.
In the jurisdiction of Milton, Ontario, the use of Toronto Masters to hear Simplified pre-trials has been fantastic – things are moving along quickly & more matters are settling at the pre-trial stage.
In the jurisdiction of Toronto, Ontario things continue to move at a snail’s pace. A regular’s Judge’s motion in Toronto can be heard 4 months after the date of booking. In Milton or Brampton that same motion can be heard in a week.
Toronto also adds expense by requiring lawyers to attend motion scheduling Court for Summary Judgment motions. This could all be done by phone or fax . The cost to the clients is at least another $ 500.00 if not more for this procedure. Oh and the booking dates for these? Well, in November 2010, the earliest date we could get was July. The same motion in Milton or Brampton would have been heard in January or February.
Overall, my observation is that the changes to the Simplified Procedure increased costs & slowed down actions, not a great thing for the client.
B. Changes to the Small Claims Court
On January 1, 2010 the Ontario Small Claims Court limit increased to $ 25 000.00.
Our firm handles a large volume of Small Claims matters and after 11 ½ months, this is what we have noticed:
1. The time to trial has become much longer in Toronto & Brampton Small Claims. This is due in large part to the failure to appoint more Deputy Judges to handle the increased volume of actions.
2. In Toronto Small Claims, changing the one hour pre-trial meeting into a much longer mediation style meeting will slow continue to slow down the system further.
3. In jurisdictions other than Toronto & Brampton, the increased jurisdiction has not caused delays.
4. Surprisingly, in collection matters, defendants are not defending more than they did when the jurisdiction was lower.
Overall the Small Claims Court limit increase has been positive. Funding a larger judiciary would benefit everyone in the larger cities of Toronto and Brampton.
2011 does not have any large changes looming on the litigation front (phew). I’ll leave it to Scott R. Young to review the 2010 Corporate Documentation side of things next week.
Inga B. Andriessen, J.D.