Also authored by: Andrea Lee

In the realm of legal battles, the case of Eddie v Lepp, 2024 ONCA 55 is a telling narrative of procedural requirements and the weight of deadlines in the pursuit of justice.

Stemming from a defamation lawsuit, the dispute saw both parties seeking summary judgment, ultimately resulting in an order in favour of Ms. Eddie. More than a year after the motion judge released her reasons, Mr. Lepp decided he wanted to appeal the motion judge's order. Since it was past the deadline to file the Notice of Appeal, Mr. Lepp moved for an extension of time to file the Notice of Appeal.

The overarching principle for the test on a motion to extend the time for filing a Notice of Appeal is whether the "justice of the case" requires that an extension be given. The court takes into account all relevant considerations, including whether the person bringing the request to extend the timeline had the intention to appeal before the deadline, the length and explanation for the delay in filing, any prejudice to the responding party that is caused, perpetuated or exacerbated by the delay, and the merits of the proposed appeal.

Justice Gillese of the Court of Appeal for Ontario considered Mr. Lepp's motion for an extension of time to file the Notice of Appeal. She found that Mr. Lepp did not have an intention to appeal within the relevant period. Mr. Lepp had admitted that he decided to not file an appeal within the timeline prescribed by the Rules of Civil Procedure because he wanted to focus his time and attention on a separate, but related, legal action (which was also against Ms. Eddie). Mr. Lepp believed that this separate legal action would provide evidence that was necessary for the appeal; for this reason, he purposefully delayed bringing an appeal until he obtained from the second action the evidence that he wanted. Justice Gillese found that this was not an acceptable explanation for the delay. She made clear that "Mr. Lepp cannot choose to ignore court rules and timelines because he wanted to follow a different process."

In addition to Mr. Lepp's excuse for the delay not being acceptable, Justice Gillese also considered that there was no merit to Mr. Lepp's appeal, and that granting an extension would harm the administration of justice, as it would very likely result in a mistrial of the second action.

On the basis of these considerations, Mr. Lepp's motion for an extension of time to file a Notice of Appeal was dismissed with costs.

This legal saga is a reminder of a few important things about the way our legal system works. First, legal battles can be long and complicated. It's not only about who's right or wrong; it's also about following the rules and being fair to everyone involved.

Second, justice takes time and patience. Even though Ms. Eddie won her case initially, the process of defending that victory against appeals and challenges was its own time-consuming and tiresome journey. The pursuit of justice is not always straightforward, but sticking to the rules and patience is essential for a fair outcome, in the end.

Finally, rules and timelines are there for a reason. We are all guilty, from time to time, of some procrastination in our personal life. In the practice of law, it is never a good idea. Without a legitimate reason, missing a deadline can cost you and your client your entire legal action, not to mention potential legal liability for you and your firm.

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