With the onset of Covid, the litigation system in Ontario needed to adjust. This newsletter explains those adjustments and how they will impact you, as a litigant, going forward:
- In all but exceptional cases, each court proceeding will be held over Zoom. This involves motions, examinations for discovery, and trials.
- When parties have issues that they need resolved before a trial, they attend court for a resolution. This is known as a motion. Motions involve lawyers making submissions to a judge on behalf of their clients.
- Examinations for discovery is when a witness from each party is examined by the opposing party’s lawyer in advance of the trial (in the United States, these are referred to as depositions). This gives both parties an opportunity to know the other side’s case in advance of the trial.
What does this mean for you as the litigant? Primarily it means three things:
- If you are called to testify at trial or are asked to give evidence as a witness during an examination for discovery, you will no longer need to travel anywhere. All you will need to do is log onto Zoom, where you will be examined remotely from your home.
- You will no longer need to attend court to watch your lawyer make submissions to a Judge. Again, all you will need to do is log onto Zoom.
- There will be huge cost savings. For instance, instead of me driving to Brampton at 8:30 a.m. for a scheduled hearing at 10:00 a.m., and then being forced to sit in the courtroom until my turn is called, and then drive back to the office from Brampton, all of which would normally be billed to the client at the lawyer’s hourly rate, all lawyers need to do now is log onto Zoom at 10:00 a.m. from their home. Moreover, there is little if any waiting period before the hearing starts. Thus, while a typical court appearance may have taken one hour for oral argument but an additional three hours for travel/waiting for a total of four hours, those three hours will no longer be incurred, and you will only be charged for the one hour.
Having just done a trial over Zoom, I found it efficient, cost-effective and much more satisfactory for our witnesses who testified from their homes.