Steps in a Superior Court Lawsuit in Ontario

Civil litigation refers to legal disputes between private parties. In a civil action, the plaintiff claims a sum of money from the defendant. In a civil application, the applicant requests the Court determine a point of law against the respondent. Actions and applications can result in trials over disputed facts. Below is a brief outline of the main stages in a typical civil action before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (claims over $25,000), commonly referred to as a lawsuit.

Pleadings – the plaintiff sets out its claim for money and version of the facts in a statement of claim. The defendant sets out its version of the facts in a statement of defence. The plaintiff may reply to new issues raised in the defence.

Discovery – after pleadings are complete, the parties must exchange all documents relevant to any issue in an affidavit of documents. This is known as documentary discovery. As well, parties get to question each other under oath prior to trial at examinations for discovery. This is known as oral discovery. After examinations for discovery, there are commonly undertakings, advisements and refusals to follow up on.

Motions – motions can arise at any time to deal with any issue, including repairing pleadings, discovery issues and summary judgment.

Mediation – Mediation and/or a negotiated settlement can occur at any stage. It is common practice to have mediation after discoveries, but sometimes before discoveries. Mediation is an opportunity to have forthright discussions about the merits of the case. Mediation is usually voluntary. In Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor actions, mediation is mandatory.

Trial Scheduling Court – many jurisdictions are moving towards having a Court appearance to book pre-trial and trial dates.  This is known as Trial Scheduling Court, Assignment Court or in Toronto To Be Spoken To Court.

Pre-trial – a pre-trial conference is held before a Master or Judge in order to canvass settlement, determine readiness for trial, discuss trial issues, identify the witnesses, determine trial procedure and set trial dates. We created a pre-trial conference checklist to help you get ready.

Trial – at trial, the parties get to present their version of the facts through witness testimony and exhibits. There is an opportunity to cross-examine the other party’s witnesses. The law of evidence governs whether the Court will accept the evidence and for what purpose. Factual submissions are made in opening statements and legal submissions are presented in closing argument. Where trial is a possibility, you may want to consider taking a look at trial book HOW TO WINg A TRIAL.

Judgment – the successful party is awarded a judgment. If the plaintiff is awarded a sum of money, it is their responsibility to collect it. The successful party is usually awarded costs, but this does not mean the other side will pay all of their legal fees.

Useful Links

Rules of Civil Procedure: http://canlii.ca/t/549vx

Practice Directions: http://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/practice/practice-directions/

Courts of Justice Act: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90c43

Superior Court Fees: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/920293

Superior Court Forms: https://trialcounsel.ca/civil-court-forms-precedents/

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These trial resources are trial information, not trial legal advice.

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