Ask Us

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How does the litigation process begin in Ontario?

Litigation in Ontario starts with determining the correct court.
For instance, if an individual’s claim is for $35,000 or less then the action needs to begin in small claims court. For claims over $35,000, individuals need to take the matter to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
If the plaintiff is claiming $200,000 or less, the claim can be started in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice under the simplified procedure rules. Alternatively, for claims over $200,000, the process starts in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice under the ordinary rules. However, the parties can agree to use the simplified procedure for claims over $200,000.
Your best bet is to speak to a general litigation lawyer in Ontario. They will be able to advise you regarding the jurisdiction of your claim. They will also be able to guide you on whether it’s best to use the simplified procedure or go a different way.

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What is the litigation process?

In a nutshell, the litigation process begins when a plaintiff sues another party. In such cases, the defendant either brings in another party or countersuits and/or answers. Both parties then engage in discovery during which there is an exchange of information regarding the matter in question.
Once discovery is complete, either mediation or alternative dispute resolution occurs. The process comes to an end with a trial and, at times, an appeal.
Most litigation ends before they reach the trial process as both parties work to come to an agreement or settlement that resolves the dispute.

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Can a lawyer file a complaint without my approval?

Lawyers cannot start a formal litigation process and file a complaint without receiving their client’s implied or express permission. Without their permission, the lawyer may face ethical and legal consequences. While the lawyer knows everything there is to know about the laws surrounding litigations, the claim solely belongs to the client.

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What are pleadings?

Pleadings are the legal documents the plaintiff files with the Court. They may contain the parties’ defences, allegations, and the facts surrounding the case and claim. These documents come in handy to describe and scale down the issues that need to be litigated.

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What is discovery?

‘Discovery’ refers to the legal process through which the parties involved exchange evidential and accurate information surrounding the case in question. It provides both parties with the ability to attain facts and information while also securing evidence they can use during the trial. Furthermore, it helps simplify the issues that need to be litigated.

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What is an interrogatory?

Interrogatories are written questions that are formally served upon a party either during or after the discovery process. During this phase, numerous questions are asked to obtain evidence, information, and facts that will support the party’s legal claims and help them develop a litigation strategy that is in their best interests.

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What is a deposition?

During a deposition in general litigation cases, one or more witnesses are questioned under oath about their knowledge of the relevant facts surrounding the case and information about themselves. Similar to the discovery process, depositions enable both parties to secure information and facts that can be used during the trial.
Since depositions typically occur early in litigation, the recollections of witnesses surrounding the event may be more precise. Additionally, if a witness passes away or is unavailable for the trial, their testimony can be used during the trial. This is possible as there are court reporters present who record all testimonies.

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What kinds of questions are asked during depositions?

Typically, anything can be asked, even things you may not think are relevant to the case. However, some of the obvious questions you should be prepared for will be related to the incident that resulted in the dispute. Other topics may include your family, medical, educational and criminal history.

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If I have filed a suit for monetary compensation and win, how can I ensure I will receive the money owed to me?

Typically, a court clerk will file a judgement against the other party wherein they will state that they owe the other party money and the sum they owe. This can later be used by you to obtain the sum owed or make the other party give property in an equal amount.

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What is the limitation period in Ontario?

Generally speaking, the limitation period in Ontario is two years. (This means a lawsuit must be filed within two years of a claim being discovered.)

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What is the best thing to do if I am notified that someone is suing me?

If you have been notified that you are being sued, we recommend contacting an experienced lawyer as soon as possible to discuss the specifics of your case.
Generally, once a lawsuit is filed, there are specific procedures and deadlines that need to be followed and maintained. An experienced general litigation lawyer will be able to explain the entire process and advise you on the next best steps. Furthermore, they will draft the necessary documents and ensure your rights are protected.

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What is the statement of defence and counterclaim?

If the defendant has a claim against the plaintiff (also known as a ‘counterclaim’), then that is also included in the Statement of Defence.

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Is there an alternative to filing a lawsuit?

In some jurisdictions, mediation is mandatory. However, it’s always available to individuals who want to participate in the process. In jurisdictions where it’s mandatory, both parties can meet with a mediator and try to negotiate a settlement. If the result is not positive, the mediator files a report with the court stating that no resolution could be agreed upon. Then, any of the parties can contact the court and schedule a pre-trial or settlement conference where the judge hears the parties’ positions after which they suggest a settlement. This is typically conducted in a private setting.

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Can I sue more than one person in a single lawsuit?

Generally, yes. You can sue more than one person if your case involves more than one party. However, it’s best to speak to your litigation lawyer to understand the best course of action.
Also, depending on the situation, typically in cases involving several individuals it’s best to have one lawsuit and add the names of all the potentially responsible parties.
Keep in mind that when you file a lawsuit, all of the parties and claims must be related to the same incident.

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Can a lawsuit be filed at any time?

This depends, as many claims have a statute of limitations. This means there are specific timeframes within which the lawsuit must be filed. Upon the expiration of the timeframe, the lawsuit cannot be filed. The timeframe depends on the jurisdiction and type of case. It’s best to contact a lawyer as soon as possible if you think you may have a claim that you want to file.

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Can I represent myself?

The legal system is complex. While it might seem less expensive than hiring a lawyer, not hiring one can cost you a lot more.
Depending on the case, there may be various legal theories involved, complex issues of proof, and multiple parties. Moreover, if your case goes to trial, the procedure will require strict compliance with procedural rules, filing deadlines, and motions. For someone without legal knowledge or training, it can become extremely overwhelming fairly quickly.

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How long does it take for a case to go to trial?

Every case is different, so it depends upon the type of case you are facing and the other cases that are still pending. While some cases may take only a few months to go to court, others may take years.

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What is the difference between litigation, mediation, and arbitration?

Litigation refers to the filing of a lawsuit and may or may not lead to a trial if the matter isn’t settled. Mediation and arbitration are alternatives to litigation.
Mediation is a cooperative process where both parties use a neutral party to come to a satisfactory resolution. Arbitration also involves a neutral third party who listens to both sides and comes to a decision that is satisfactory to both parties.
While arbitration is a binding procedure, mediation isn’t, and there are various costs associated with both.

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What happens if mediation is unsuccessful?

If mediation is unsuccessful, both parties must resume their litigation through the court system. There are no penalties if the parties fail to come to a mutual settlement.

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Is it better to take the case to trial or mediate it?

It’s best to try to settle the case through mediation before taking it to trial. Keep in mind that during trials, there are no guarantees of a favourable resolution for either party. Plus, trials are expensive, time-consuming and complex to navigate.