Changes related to the Simplified Procedure process will take effect on January 1, 2020 to help resolve qualifying cases faster. These changes may affect your lawyer’s strategy when filing a lawsuit in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, including claims for personal injury or property damage.
One of the key changes is the higher limit allowing more plaintiffs to make a claim that would fall within the Simplified Procedure process. This monetary threshold will increase from $100,000 to $200,000. Other changes include new requirements to help fast-forward the resolution time which can result in a settlement before trial occurs.
As such, where it may make sense to restrict your damages to $200,000 or less based on the facts of your case, your lawyer will discuss the tactical advantages of the Simplified Procedure process with you. If a claim has already been filed, your lawyer may consider whether to move it into Simplified Procedure in an effort to speed up the process by reducing the amount to $200,000.
The Simplified Procedure Process Generally
The following highlights some of the activities generally under the Simplified Procedure process for lawsuits filed starting on January 1, 2020. These activities occur after the pleading stage, which is where a statement of claim is filed and formal, written responses (such as a statement of defence) are provided by the parties to each other with respect to the allegations contained in the statement of claim.
1. Delivery of affidavits of documents. An affidavit of documents is a sworn document listing all the relevant documents a party has that pertain to the issues at hand. It will also include a list of potential witnesses. The parties will deliver affidavits to each other to better assess the case at hand.
2. Examinations for discovery. An examination for discovery is a process where one party asks the opposing party questions about matters that are in dispute. Each party will have an ability to discover the other party for up to 3 hours.
3. Settlement discussion. Within 180 days after the statement of defence is filed, the parties will meet or discuss on a call whether all relevant documents are disclosed and the possibility of settlement of all or any of the issues.
4. Set down for trial. Within 180 days after the statement of defence is filed, the parties will request the court for a trial date. This request occurs by serving a notice of readiness for the pre-trial conference (which conference meeting is explained below).
5. Expert affidavits. Where a party intends to call an expert witness at trial, a signed report from that expert witness must be attached to an affidavit of the expert and served on the other party. The report must include certain information including the expert’s qualifications, opinion to the applicable issues, and reasons for the opinion.
6. Trial management plan. The parties will agree on a proposed trial management plan at least 30 days before the pre-trial conference. This plan is to include a list of all witnesses, including expert witnesses, and time allocations related to trial activities (including opening statement and cross-examination). The pre-trial conference judge or case management master will approve the proposed time management plan with any changes.
7. Pre-trial conference. Within 180 days after the action has been set down for trial, the parties will schedule a pre-trial conference to better understand the issues and positions of the parties. The pre-trial conference occurs before a judge or case management master. The judge or case management master will help to facilitate possible settlement of one or more of the issues in dispute.
8. Trial. A trial will last no longer than five days. Except for limited circumstances, there are no trials by jury.
At any time during this process, the parties are open to having settlement discussions to resolve the matter even sooner.
Overall, the Ontario government’s changes to the Simplified Procedure process is a positive step towards allowing more plaintiffs to resolve their claims in a more timely manner. The disclosure of more information sooner can help with settlement efforts.
Douglas Strelshik has been representing injured parties in personal injury claims, and plaintiffs in property damage claims, for over 30 years. He can be reached at 647.348.5422 to discuss the facts of your case.