The new year will be ushered in with substantial changes to Rule 76 of the Rules of Civil Procedure relating to the simplified procedure, with amendments taking effect on January 1st, 2020. Related changes to the Courts of Justice Act have also been implemented. The amendments are part of an effort to reduce the costs and delays associated with litigation, as well as to preserve judicial resources, and are anticipated to have significant ramifications to the practice of personal injury and other areas of litigation in Ontario.
The changes may well facilitate access to justice for litigants, particularly for accident victims with shallower pockets than their insurance company counterparts. Litigants with limitation periods expiring after the January 1st, 2020 changes should consider whether the newly amended simplified procedure is best suited to their litigation strategy and issue their claims accordingly.
The new amendments increase the monetary limit for cases under the simplified procedure from $100,000 to $200,000, thereby increasing the breadth of cases that can now be litigated under this forum.
Importantly, the right to a jury will be eliminated, unless a jury notice was delivered before January 1st, 2020 or the action involves libel, slander, malicious arrest, malicious prosecution, or false imprisonment. This feature alone will appeal to a broad range of litigants.
Other changes include:
- A cap on the length of trial at 5 days, with no discretion afforded to the Court to extend this timeline;
- A cap on the recovery of costs in the amount of $50,000 plus HST and on recovery of disbursements in the amount of $25,000 plus HST;
- Oral discovery limited to 3 hours, increased from 2 hours in light of the expanded monetary jurisdiction;
- Expedited timelines, i.e. action must be set down for trial later than 180 days the first defence or notice of intent to defend filed, with a pre-trial date to be set within 180 days thereafter;
- Parties must agree upon a trial management plan 30 days in advance of the pre-trial conference, which shall contain a list of witnesses and a division of time allotted between opening statements, examination in chief by affidavit or examination for discovery transcript, cross-examinations, re-examination, and oral argument; and,
- Trials will proceed in a summary fashion utilizing affidavit evidence for examination in chief, followed by cross-examination and re-examination of a deponent. Reply evidence may be adduced by the Plaintiff with leave of the trial judge.
In a recent News Bulletin posted by the Ministry of the Attorney General, Attorney General Doug Downey is quoted as stating: "Having more cases started under Simplified Procedure rules can free up valuable court time and resources while making it easier, faster and more affordable for people in Ontario to resolve their legal issues.”1
Given the significant time, expense, and delay traditionally associated with advancing an action under the ordinary procedure in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, this is a laudable goal indeed.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.