Useful Information    

Briefly, this is what you can expect in a typical Ontario civil action

  The lawsuit is usually started by the drafting and filing in court of a Statement of Claim, by the plaintiffs lawyer, setting out the basic nature of their clients= claim. If the claim involves personal injury or death, there may also be claims on behalf of family members.

The defendants will then respond with a Statement of Defence, giving factual and legal reasons why they are not liable for the plaintiffs claim.

Much of the time in a lawsuit is spent finding reviewing and listing relevant documents. In a commercial case, there will often be contracts, notes, memoranda, correspondence, etc, In injury or medical cases, there will be medical reports and hospital records.

Generally speaking, under our rules of evidence, the parties to a lawsuit are not entitled to give their opinions of the facts in dispute. They are limited to telling the court their version of the facts. Very often, therefore, it is also necessary to obtain written report from experts, such as engineers or physicians; who because of their expertise are able to help the court by testifying as to their opinions.

Ordinarily we prepare the briefs - that is find and review all of the relevant documents and other information about the client=s case - and then try to sit down with the other side, and quite frequently an early settlement is reached.



At any time during the progress of the lawsuit, the clients has the right to discontinue proceedings or instruct the lawyer to settle. Of course, cost is often a consideration in making this decision, and it must be discussed openly and frankly between client and lawyer.

Almost as often, the case has to go to the next step of our procedure, which is an examination for discovery. This is a proceeding (called deposition in the United States) where the lawyers for each side have an opportunity to question the opposite party under oath (in the presence of his or her lawyer). No judge is present in this procedure. It usually takes place about four to six months after negotiations have broken down. This is another opportunity to resolve the case - simply because the parties are once again meeting, and are forced to consider the relative strength of their arguments.

Some years ago, the statistic was that fewer than five percent of civil cases actually ended up in a trial. That has also been true in my practice. If the case is still not settled after examination for discovery, then it is put on the trial list and it is usually heard within one to two years depending on the backlog of cases and the place where the trial is to be conducted.

In the interim a pre-trial conference is held, in a judge=s chambers. This is usually the last, best opportunity to settle the lawsuit before incurring the expense and uncertainty of preparing for a trial.


© Vusumzi Msi 2002