The Simplified Procedure process is governed by Section 76 of the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure. This process was introduced decades ago in an effort to provide litigants with a streamlined and less costly process for resolving their legal claims.
Earlier this year, the Province updated the Simplified Procedure process in an effort to provide individuals and businesses with an even easier, faster and cheaper way to resolve their legal claims and free up valuable court resources. The Province’s updates were implemented by way of Ontario Regulation 344/19 and became effective on January 1, 2020. The main changes included:
- Increasing the monetary limit of the Simplified Procedure process from $100,000.00 to $200,000.00
- Eliminating jury trials from the Simplified Procedure process
However, a party may opt out of Rule 76 and deliver a jury notice in certain cases, such as those involving slander, libel, malicious arrest, malicious prosecution or false imprisonment.
- Increasing the time allowed for an oral examination for discovery from 2 hours to 3 hours (this is 3 hours total for all parties to be examined)
- Clarification surrounding the use of expert evidence
- Parties must schedule a pre-trial conference within 180 days after the action is set down for trial, failing which the Court Registrar will set a time and date
- Parties must agree to a proposed “Trial Management Plan” at least 30 days before the pre-trial conference and file it at least 5 days before
- A Simplified Procedure trial will be conducted in a summary manner, which will generally involve:
- The plaintiff will submit its evidence in chief by affidavit. The plaintiff may examine the deponent of any affidavit for not more than 10 minutes, followed by a cross-examination by a party who is adverse in interest, and then a re-examination by the plaintiff if it so choses for not more than 10 minutes
- The defendant will also submit its evidence by affidavit and the same procedure for examinations, cross-examinations and re-examinations followed for the plaintiff’s evidence will occur
- Parties are restricted to 50 minutes to complete all of their cross-examinations
- Oral closing arguments are restricted to 45 minutes for each party
Simplified Procedure trials are now restricted to a maximum of 5 days.
- Limits on the costs and disbursements that a party may be awarded
Subject to some exceptions, costs will be capped at $50,000.00 and disbursements will be capped at $25,000.00, both exclusive of HST.
While these changes encourage more efficient litigation, parties and their counsel must be mindful of the restrictions, particularly in regards to oral discovery, the 5-day limit on trials and caps on costs, and adjust their file management and expectations accordingly as they pursue claims under the new Simplified Procedure rules.
The complete framework of the updated Simplified Procedure rules can be accessed at: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/r19344?_ga=2.90616282.1730543209.1597242975-407072530.1499881899.
Small Claims Court
At the same time that the Province rolled out its updates to the Simplified Procedure process, it also implemented an important change to the Small Claims Court – increasing the monetary limit from $25,000.00 to $35,000.00. This update was implemented by way of Ontario Regulation 343/19 and became effective on January 1, 2020.
The increase of the Small Claims limit widens the door for litigants to pursue their claims within a radically streamlined framework, which generally involves much less time in court, is less expensive, and allows litigants to be represented by a larger cohort of the legal profession, such as paralegals and law students. The Small Claims process typically involves the exchange of pleadings, a settlement conference and a trial. Whereas claims that exceed the small claims jurisdiction are subjected to a multi-faceted and often lengthy litigation process, which typically involves the exchange of pleadings, extensive documentary discovery, examinations for discovery, possibly mediation, a pre-trial and a trial conducted in either an ordinary or summary manner, as well as more stringent and complex procedural rules.
If applicable, plaintiffs can transfer ongoing legal claims within the limit of $35,000.00 to the Small Claims Court. Where litigants have a claim just over this limit, they may want to consider transferring or commencing their claim in the Small Claims Court (and waiving the amount above the limit) to take advantage of the streamlined process and cost benefits of Small Claims Court.
The complete Small Claims Court rules can be accessed at: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/980258.
Even with the updated procedures recently implemented in the Simplified Procedure and Small Claims Court, the litigation process can be intimidating, time-consuming and complex to navigate on your own. We welcome you to contact any of our litigators to discuss your legal matter and help guide you through the process.
Disclaimer: Information made available in this article is provided for general information purposes only and is provided without representation for its accuracy or completeness. It is not legal advice and should not be relied upon. You should not take any action or fail to take any action based on the information set out in this article or on this website. Consult a lawyer at Sullivan Mahoney LLP and seek professional legal advice tailored to your unique situation.