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?