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September 25, 2013

Dismissal for Delay at Status Hearings

The Court of Appeal has answered a question that arises fairly frequently in civil litigation: under what circumstances should an action be dismissed by the court following a status hearing?

In Faris v. Eftimovski, 2013 ONCA 360 (C.A.), the action was commenced in 2007 alleging damages from real estate transactions in 2003 and 2005.  At the time of the status hearing in 2012, pleadings had not been finalized, no documentary productions had been exchanged, and no examinations for discovery had occurred.  Two of the defendants had died.  The status hearing judge dismissed the action, holding that there were unexplained delays in the action and there was non-compensable prejudice to the defendants since parties had died.

The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal.  Justice Tulloch distinguished between r. 24, which permits a defendant to take a deliberate procedural step to have the action dismissed, and r. 48, which allows the court to control the pace of litigation. The onus is on the plaintiff to demonstrate there was an acceptable explanation for the delay and that, if the action was allowed to proceed, the defendant would suffer no non-compensable prejudice.

There has been much discussion recently about lengthy delays in trial lists.  Could the Court of Appeal be signalling an attempt to clear out cases that are slowing down the system?

September 18, 2013

Timing of Summary Judgment Motions

At what point in a lawsuit is it appropriate to bring a summary judgment motion?

In Stever v. Rainbow International Carpet Dyeing & Cleaning Inc., 2013 ONSC 4054 (S.C.J.), the defendant brought a summary judgment motion prior to discoveries, alleging there was no issue requiring a trial as the limitation period had expired.  Justice Morgan held that summary judgment motions typically proceed after discoveries are complete, or with affidavit evidence and cross-examinations that "go a long way to replicating what will be produced at discoveries."  Justice Morgan adjourned the summary judgment until after discoveries had been completed.

Stever is in line with the Court of Appeal's decision in Combined Air, which held:

58     Moreover, the record built through affidavits and cross-examinations at an early stage may offer a less complete picture of the case than the responding party could present at trial. As we point out below, at para. 68, counsel have an obligation to ensure that they are adopting an appropriate litigation strategy. A party faced with a premature or inappropriate summary judgment motion should have the option of moving to stay or dismiss the motion where the most efficient means of developing a record capable of satisfying the full appreciation test is to proceed through the normal route of discovery. This option is available by way of a motion for directions pursuant to rules 1.04(1), (1.1), (2) and 1.05.

In many cases, especially where there is an issue of discoverability, summary judgment is likely not appropriate until discoveries are complete.

September 11, 2013

Discount Rate

The new discount rates have been posted on the Attorney General's website.  They can be found at:


For 2014, the discount rate is 0.3% for the first 15 years and 2.5% thereafter.

September 4, 2013


Rule 6.1.01 became effective on January 1, 2010.  It provides as follows:

With the consent of the parties, the court may order a separate hearing on one or more issues in a proceeding, including separate hearings on the issues of liability and damages. 

In Soulliere v. Robitaille Estate, 2013 ONSC 5073 (S.C.J.), the issue was whether a court may bifurcate a trial when one party does not consent.  The Court of Appeal held in Kovach (Litigation Guardian of) v. Linn 2010 ONCA 126 (C.A.) that a judge does not have the jurisdiction to bifurcate a jury trial when one party does not consent.  In Soulliere, however, the trial would be heard by judge alone.

Justice Smith held that r. 6.1.01 does not remove the Court's inherent jurisdiction to bifurcate a trial.  In keeping with the Court of Appeal's decision in Elcano Acceptance v. Richmond, Richmond, Stabler and Mills (1989), 55 O.R. (2d) 56 (C.A.), a Court may order bifurcation in the clearest of cases.  In the circumstances, Justice Smith declined to order bifurcation.  The case was not so exceptional as to warrant departure from the normal practice of hearing liability and damages together, and there was potential prejudice to the plaintiff if forced to wait.