Civil litigation is the process of going to court to resolve disputes relating to money, property, family, and commercial matters. Civil cases are governed by Ontario’s Rules of Civil Procedure, which prescribe the process, conduct of parties, evidence gathering, and much more.
Matters involving $25,000 or less in claims are referred to the Small Claims Court, while matters exceeding that total are generally filed before the Superior Court. Depending on the nature of the claim, it may be assigned to a specialized court.
Here is a step-by-step guide to civil litigation in St. Catharines and the role your civil lawyer will play.
Your Step-by-Step Guide to Civil Litigation
1. Initiating and Serving the Claim
A claim is initiated when your civil lawyers file a Statement of Claim, pay the applicable court fees, and have the claim issued by the court. At this stage, you only need to provide a summary of the facts supporting your case.
Once the claim is issued, you are required to personally give each of the defendants a copy within six months. This is called serving the claim.
2. Defending the Claim
The party being sued prepares and serves the Statement of Defence on all those involved in the matter. There are strict time limits to follow, and failing to meet them can lead to the party being noted in default.
That means the court assumes you have admitted to the claims made against you, and the party suing can seek an order against you to be paid. This is called a default judgment.
Though rule 24.1 mandates mediation for cases initiated in Toronto, Windsor, and Ottawa, the same does not apply to St. Catharines. Parties to the claim are not required to mediate, though mediation can help you reach a settlement, which prevents you from going to court.
4. The Discovery Process
Discovery is the stage at which parties to the case exchange information about the evidence they are going to present at trial. Civil litigation attorneys will usually exchange documents and ask each other questions.
5. Setting the Trial Date
Once the defence is filed and discovery is complete, any party can ask the court to set a trial date. Your civil litigation attorney will file a trial record, which is essentially a comprehensive record of the case so far.
6. Pre-Trial Conference
The pre-trial conference is when the parties and the pre-trial judge discuss potential settlements, whether the issues can be simplified, and how long the trial is expected to last.
The case will be heard exclusively by the judge, as most civil cases do not involve a jury. All parties to the suit will present evidence, make arguments in their favour, and attempt to rebut arguments presented by opposing parties. Witnesses may also be called at this stage to bolster your claim.
Once the judge has heard all the arguments, they will make a decision. This may be given immediately after the trial or, if it is a reserved judgement, it will be presented at a later date.
Work with Experienced Lawyers for Your Civil Rights
The guide above is meant only to illustrate what the civil process looks like broadly. To understand what the claims process will be for you, speak to our team. Our lawyers will fight for your civil rights and help you take informed next steps.