Ontario Superior Court Civil Case Conference Guidelines – Civil Law
Although civil case conferences may seem like a relatively quick and less formal way to obtain judicial intervention to help move a case forward, especially in times of significant court delays and backlogs, recent Superior Court approval suggests that counsel should use good judgment and caution when soliciting such case conferences.
In the endorsement of RSJ Richetti (Central West) in Davies v. Cossnell1counsel for a defendant requested a case conference to resolve various issues, including the failure of counsel for the plaintiff to resolve service issues regarding service of the statement on the co-accused, failure to respond to certain letters and requests and failure to respond businesses.
RSJ Richetti sought to resolve the issues by identifying the various motions needed and setting a timeline for the motions to be heard by the Court.
On the issue of service, it should be noted that His Honor appears to have implicitly criticized the fact that defense counsel insisted on proper service of the statement by way of motion, rather than simply accepting the meaning since the lawyer had been retained and his clients were obviously aware of the action – perhaps something to bear in mind when such an issue exists in a case.
That said, His Honor was prepared to set the timeline for the motion, in which case plaintiff’s attorney agreed to bring the motion – more than three years into the action, after some discovery and only after court intervention. at the case conference.
With respect to the plaintiff’s attorney’s failure to respond to certain letters and requests, it appears that this is partly related to the defense attorney’s request for the plaintiff’s consent to a
wagg movement. When RSJ Richetti proceeded to schedule a
wagg motion, however, the defense attorney indicated that he had not received instructions to make such a motion, but simply wanted the court to order the plaintiff’s attorney to respond to his letter. requesting consent before a certain date.
His Honor criticized this approach, noting it as a waste of court time where the court “was used to enforce civility and responsiveness between attorneys by scheduling correspondence between attorneys.”
Finally, on the issue of the plaintiff’s outstanding recognizances, defense counsel sought an order at the case conference that the recognizances be answered within 60 or 90 days, based on a just a brief letter indicating that the commitments remained outstanding. RSJ Richetti also criticized this approach, where there was no evidence before him and no information as to what the commitments were or whether the proposed time frame was reasonable or not. His Honor noted that this was also a waste of time.
Accordingly, His Honor concluded the case conference and ordered that all required motions be scheduled through the office of the trial coordinator.
RSJ Richetti described the case conference as demonstrating a growing problem with civil case conferences and noted it as “a prime example of the waste of valuable judicial resources by all attorneys in this case”. His Honor has provided some guidance on what should be considered with respect to civil case conferences:
- They are not intended to provide substantive remedies (unless on consent), but relate to procedural matters. If substantial relief is sought, the matter should proceed to a hearing, not a case conference, to allow the court to decide the issues based on the evidence and submissions.
- An urgent hearing can be scheduled and scheduled at a civil case conference.
- If the parties are unable to agree on dates or a schedule, a case conference may be necessary, but a party acting unreasonably may be subject to costs against it at the case conference, if applicable.
- A case conference is not intended and should not be used for court intervention to facilitate the civility, reasonable or sensitive conduct of opposing counsel, which is already required by Rules of ethics.
Ultimately, His Honor concluded that if a party or counsel is unreasonable, fails to respond, or obstructs motions to be brought or made, such conduct may be dealt with by the court through costs. , potentially punitive, against a party or even perhaps against a lawyer. .
While it may be counterintuitive to encourage motions in the face of the limited judicial resources alluded to, attorneys should consider the advice provided by RSJ Richetti when considering the value of a conference relating to the civil cause, in particular whether the remedy sought would be more appropriate requested on request.
More importantly, it seems clear that the court encourages reasonableness and cooperation between parties and counsel to avoid further pressure on a strained system, whether through a case conference or of a motion.
1. 2022 ONSC 654.
Originally published on February 02, 2022
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