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Understanding the civil litigation process in Ontario can be intimidating but knowing what to expect can help ease any anxieties. Here is guide to the 12 main steps involved in the civil litigation process. 

Step One: Determining Jurisdiction

The first step is determining which court has jurisdiction. If the claim is less that $35,000, it must be started in small claims court. For claims greater than $35,000, the action should be started in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. 

Claims of less than $200,000 should be started under the Simplified Procedure Rule while claims over $200,000 should be started under ordinary Rules. 

Step Two: Statement of Claim

In order to begin civil litigation proceedings, the plaintiff or their lawyer must issue a Statement of Claim which outlines the details of the case and why they are legally entitled to compensation. It is very important that this is issued within the limitation period. If for some reason, it is not possible to issue the Statement of Claim within the limitation period, the plaintiff may be able to issue a Statement of Action. 

Step Three: Statement of Defence and Counterclaim

Once the defendant receives the Statement of Claim, they have a brief time period to respond with a Statement of Defence. This is a document which outlines the reasons why the defendant should not have to compensate the plaintiff. The defendant may also include a Counterclaim against the plaintiff with this document. 

Step Four: Reply and Defence to Counterclaim

When the plaintiff has received the Statement of Defence, they are given the opportunity to reply to the allegations. If there has been a Counterclaim, the plaintiff must also serve the defendant with a Defence to the Counterclaim. 

Step Five: Discovery Plan

With 60 days of Replay and Defence to Counterclaim, all parties must agree to a written discovery plan. This is a plan which outlines how the discovery will be conducted including the names of people who will be interviewed, and then timelines involved. 

Step Six: Documentary Discovery

Each party will serve the other an Affidavit of Documents which will list all of the documents which must be provided in discovery. Any documents left off this list may not be permitted to be used in court, so the importance of working with a good civil litigation lawyer here cannot be overstated. 

Step Seven: Examinations for Discovery

This part of the process involves the lawyers for each party asking the other party questions. If your lawyer thinks that one of the questions asked by the other lawyer is inappropriate, they will advise you not to answer. These interviews are recorded and done under oath. 

Step Eight: Answering Undertakings and Motions to Compel Answers

In some cases, the person being interviewed may not have the necessary information at hand to answer a question right away. If this happens, they may agree to an undertaking which means they will provide the answer or relevant documentation at a later date. 

If the person does not answer the undertaking within the agreed timeframe, the lawyer of the other party may issue a motion to compel with the court to force them to provide the necessary information. 

Step Nine: Motions

At any time during the civil litigation process in Ontario, either party may make a motion to receive a ruling from the court on various procedural issues such as excluding certain evidence. Your lawyer will know what motions are appropriate and when. 

Step Ten: Mandatory Mediation

In some cases, the parties involved in a civil litigation dispute will be required to attempt to solve the issue through mediation before the case can be brought to court. 

Step Eleven: Set Matter Down for Trial or Pretrial Conference

If all of the above steps have been completed, your lawyer can request the matter be placed on the trial list.  Each party must then provide a brief to the presiding judge. 

The parties must then attend a pretrial conference during which the presiding judge will try to help them reach a settlement. 

Step Twelve: Trial

If all the above steps have been taken, and the parties cannot reach an agreement, then the matter is settled in trial and the decision of the court is binding. If the matter goes to trial, the losing party may also be responsible for covering the winning party’s legal costs. 

Contact Minhas Lawyers today

If you are involved in a civil litigation dispute, contact us today to speak with one of our civil litigation lawyers


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Minhas Lawyers Professional Corporation is a multi-practice law firm based in Mississauga. We advise and represent clients across various segments and practice areas.

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