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June 27, 2012

Trial Adjournments

Graham v. Vandersloot, 2012 ONCA 60 (C.A.)

In this case, litigation had proceeded at a leisurely pace since 2005. Trial had previously been adjourned when plaintiff's counsel erroneously advised the plaintiff had been in a second accident. Even though a trial date had been selected in 2009, the plaintiff did not arrange medical examinations until shortly before the trial was scheduled to occur in 2010. The plaintiff then sought a six month adjournment, which was denied.  She appealed the decision.

The Court of Appeal allowed the appeal. It held that a key factor was that liability was admitted. Fading memories were less a concern where the primary evidence would be expert opinions. In addition, the defendant would not suffer non-compensable prejudice if a six month adjournment was granted. The failure of plaintiff's counsel to advance the litigation was not to be held against the plaintiff.

Many of the changes to the Rules in 2010 were aimed at ensuring that cases move efficiently through the system and it would seem that late requests for adjournments should generally be avoided. The Graham decision seems to suggest, however, that courts will be generous in granting adjournments to ensure cases are determined on their merits, especially where liability is not an issue.

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