There are some new and exciting changes coming to the civil litigation world! As of January 1, 2020, the changes outlined below will take effect and making the litigation process faster, easier and more affordable.
Small Claims Court
As of January 1, 2020, the monetary limit for the Small Claims Court will increase from $25,000 to $35,000. The minimum amount of a claim that may be appealed to the Divisional Court will be increased from $2,500 to $3,500.
Currently, all claims over $25,000 must process in the Superior Court of Justice, which is one of the busiest Courts in Canada, where litigation can take years and extensive legal fees. In Small Claims Court, cases are often resolved in less than a year and claimants are not required to hire lawyers or other legal help (though we always recommend that you do!).
According to the Ontario Attorney General, the goal of the changes is to allow more people to file and respond to claims using less expensive representation, such as paralegals and law students, or through self-representation. These changes will also cut down wait times in courtrooms, and give parties more cost efficient representation options in their civil litigation claims.
As of January 1, 2020, several changes will come into effect regarding claims under Rule 76 Simplified Procedure:
- The monetary limit for claims under Rule 76, Simplified Procedure, will increase from $100,000 to $200,000 exclusive of interest. The Simplified Procedure can be used for claims between $35,000 and $200,000;
- There will be limits placed on costs. Subject to cost consequences resulting from offers to settle or an Act, no party may recover costs over $50,000 or disbursements over $25,000, exclusive of H.S.T. Costs are, however, still in the jurisdiction and at the discretion of the trial judge. The limits on costs do not apply to actions commenced before January 1, 2020;
- Each party will have up to 3 hours for Examinations for Discovery (which is increased from the current 2-hour limit);
- Trials are limited to five days to facilitate the timely resolution of claims. The trial judge has no discretion to extend the duration of the trial;
- Civil jury trials in Simplified Procedure actions have been eliminated (though this will not apply to actions where a jury notice is served prior to January 1, 2020);
- Where a claim made under the Simplified Procedure involves a claim for slander, libel, malicious arrest, malicious prosecution or false imprisonment, a party can serve a jury notice with a notice (Form 76A) stating that the action and any related proceedings are continued as an ordinary action;
- An action assigned to case management may not continue under Rule 76; and,
- The “summary trial” is eliminated and replaced with a new path to trial, which includes:
- Serving expert reports as an exhibit to the experts affidavit;
- The parties must schedule their own Pre-Trial Conference within 180 days after the action is set down for trial at a time that is acceptable to all parties, unless the Court orders otherwise;
- Parties must agree to a proposed trial management plan at least 30 days before a pre-trial conference.
- The Pre-Trial Conference Brief must include the proposed trial management plan (for review, approval or amendment by the Court), any expert affidavits, and a statement not exceeding 3 pages that sets out the issues and party’s position.
Where Should I Start My Civil Litigation Claim?
Given these significant changes, claimants will be required to consider whether the ordinary procedure in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice may be more appropriate even though the claim falls within the monetary jurisdiction for Small Claims Court or Simplified Procedure. This will generally mean that claimants and civil litigators must better assess the claims up front and determine the issues, number and sophistication of the parties, number of witnesses and the complexity of the case in general to determine whether the case should proceed in Small Claims Court, Simplified Procedure or ordinary procedure.
Speak to a civil litigation lawyer to discuss the various options that are available to you.