Civil Litigation FAQ

What is Civil Litigation? In its simplest form, civil litigation can be defined as a legal dispute between two or more parties. In such disputes, the plaintiff party will commonly be seeking some type of damages (compensation) from the defendant party for a harm or injury they have suffered. Examples of matters falling under the heading of civil litigation matters include, but are not restricted to: torts, personal injury, trusts, and contracts.

Who are the plaintiffs and the Defendants in Civil Suit? Generally, the party who commences the lawsuit will be known as the “plaintiff” throughout the initial trial process. On the other hand, the party being pursued will be referred to as the “defendant”. The parties respective titles will be altered if an appeal is subsequently pursued. During the appeal process, the initiating party will be referred to as the “appellant” while the other party will be known as the “respondent”.

Which Papers Must be Filed to Start a Lawsuit? In order to initiate a lawsuit and commence the legal proceedings, the plaintiff must first file a pleading with the court, otherwise known as a “complaint”. In response, the defendant will be expected to file with the court a pleading of their own, namely, an “answer”.

What are the Stages Involved in a Civil Litigation Process? Generally, the civil litigation process can be narrowed down to a set of seven stages. These stages include (1) the investigation, (2) the pleadings, (3) the discovery phase, (4) the pre-trial, (5) the trial, (6) the settlement, and (7) the appeal. Of course not all civil lawsuits make their way through all seven stages. In fact, the majority of civil litigation cases ultimately end up being settled before ever making it to the trial stage.

What is the “Discovery” Phase of a lawsuit? Shortly after the plaintiff and the defendant have both successfully filed the “complaint” and the “answer” respectively, the discovery phase of the civil litigation process begins. During this discovery phase, both parties to the dispute are essentially expected to “discover” all the relevant facts regarding the particular case at hand. Specifically, this phase of the lawsuit may include, for instance, witnesses answering questions under oath or the exchange of relevant documents through affidavits.

What Happens if I Lose a Civil Lawsuit? It is often the case in civil litigation that the losing party will be required to pay the winning party’s legal fees over and above any other type of damages the court may already have found them liable for.

What Is the Difference Between a Criminal and a Civil Trial? A criminal trial is a legal process that involves the federal government (represented by the Crown Attorney or prosecutor) and a single, or group of individuals who are suspected of having committed one or many offences under the Canadian Criminal Code. Civil suits on the other hand, typically take place between two private or non-government parties for various reasons.

What is a Statute of Limitations? Essentially, a Statute of Limitations is a piece of legislation that encompasses a series of procedural rules that must necessarily be followed in order to file a valid legal claim against another party. The Statute dictates the amount of time a particular claimant has to file a lawsuit after the time of the injury or incident in question. If you fail to respect the time limitations set out in the statute you will be barred from brining an action in court. Currently, the Ontario Limitations Act allows a two year period to file a “complaint” with the court from the day the claim is discovered. All legal claims are subject to this time limitation unless otherwise specifically provided for in the statute.

How Long Does it Usually Take for a Case to Go to Trial? There really is no specific answer to this type of question. Basically, the amount of time it will take one’s case to get to the trial phase after a claim has been filed is highly contingent upon the complexity of the particular set of facts surrounding the case. Some simple cases may see a court date within a few months after having been filed, whereas the more complex cases may take several years.

What is an “Out-ofCourt” Settlement? An “out-of-court” settlement simply means that both the plaintiff and the defendant have come to an agreement as to how to resolve the dispute outside the courtroom. Commonly, a settlement will involve a compromise between both parties’ needs and interests. These types of settlements are often preferred by the clients over going to trial because both the plaintiff and the defendant have a say in what the ultimate outcome of the case will be. Out-of-court settlements can also sometimes save clients considerable expenses that would otherwise be incurred during the trial process.

What is Small Claims Court? The Small Claims Court in Ontario hears civil dispute cases involving a monetary value of up to $10,000 (soon to be $20,000). Any case involving an amount above $10,000 will not be heard in Small Claims Court. Such claims must be brought to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Examples of the types of cases that a Small Claims Court will hear include: – unpaid accounts of various kinds – damage to personal property or to one’s person

Do I Really Need a Lawyer for Small Claims Court? Having a lawyer represent you on our court date is not mandatory, and often times unnecessary depending on the facts of the case. Usually, lawyers will only accompany a client to Small Claims Court appearances in the most legally and factually challenging cases. Behind the scenes however, the lawyer can provide these self-represented clients with valuable legal advice regarding their case, they can draft any necessary Small Claims Court forms and help you prepare for your court date.

What are Some Alternatives to Starting a Civil Suit? Many alternatives to starting a lawsuit exist where the plaintiff party is seeking compensation. These alternatives to litigation are often referred to as ADR, or Alternative Dispute Resolution Processes and include non-court proceedings such as mediation, arbitration, and negotiation. Specifically, mediation and negotiation can often help the parties to a dispute achieve a mutually acceptable, “win-win” settlement rather than being labeled by the court as either the winner or the loser at trial.

What are Counterclaims and Crossclaims? A counterclaim is a claim that is filed by the defendant against the plaintiff in an existing action. Essentially what this means is that the defendant in action A is making his own claim against the plaintiff. A crossclaim is different in that it is an action which is brought between co-plaintiffs or co-defendants in an existing action.