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There are several stages of litigation that parties must go through in order to resolve their dispute. This post breaks down these stages so you can get a better understanding before proceeding with a civil case.
What is litigation?
Litigation simply refers to the process of resolving legal disputes through the court system. It is important to know the stages of litigation because you’ll understand the process and know what to expect when going through the court system.
An experienced litigation lawyer will guide you through the process and expertly prepare and strategize for each stage. Having a good lawyer can also help you anticipate potential challenges that may arise with your case.
The Stages of Litigation in Ontario
Stage 1: Pre-Litigation Stage
The pre-litigation stage involves the initial steps taken before filing a lawsuit. It is in this phase that the parties involved may attempt to resolve the dispute through negotiation or mediation and arbitration. If the parties involved in the lawsuit are unable to reach an agreement through these methods, they will move into the next stage of litigation.
Stage 2: Commencement of Proceedings
The second stage of litigation begins when one party files a Statement of Claim with the court. The person who has been harmed (“the plaintiff”) files a Statement of Claim that outlines the allegations against the person who harmed them (“the defendant”) and the relief sought. This must be submitted within a specific timeline, depending on the claim, but typically within 2 years. The defendant then has to file a Statement of Defence within a set period of time.
Stage 3: Discovery
The discovery stage is when both parties gather evidence to support their claims and then exchange this with each other. This may involve exchanging relevant documents, questioning witnesses under oath, and conducting examinations for discovery. This stage allows both parties to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their case, narrow their issues for trial and potentially reach a settlement.
Stage 4: Pre-Trial Conference
Before a trial date is set, the parties may attend a pre-trial conference with a judge or mediator. This provides the parties with another opportunity to settle the case before going to trial, identify the issues in dispute, and discuss any potential procedural issues that may arise during the trial.
Stage 5: Trial
The trial stage is where the case is heard in court, either in front of a judge or a judge and jury. The plaintiff presents their case first, followed by the defendant. Both parties may call witnesses to testify, and evidence is presented to the judge or the judge and jury. Once both parties have presented their case, the judge or jury makes a decision and issues a verdict.
Stage 6: Post-Trial or Appeal
Litigation doesn’t end once the trial concludes and a verdict is issued. There may be an opportunity to take further steps and appeal the decision. Appeals cannot be filed if you simply don’t like the verdict; you must feel that an error was made in the judgment to have grounds for appeal. If you seek an appeal, there are many benefits to hiring a skilled appellate lawyer to help you with the process.
How long does litigation take?
Overall, the litigation process can take several years depending on the complexity of the case. If the parties are able to reach an agreement before trial, the process will be much quicker than if you go to trial and then appeal the decision.
In conclusion, understanding the stages of litigation in Ontario can help you navigate the legal system more effectively. From pre-litigation to post-trial, each stage of the litigation process is important and requires careful consideration. Having a clear understanding of the process can help parties make informed decisions and achieve a satisfactory outcome.
The best way to ensure this is to hire an experienced litigation lawyer. Allan Rouben has been practicing law in Ontario for over 30 years and has extensive experience with litigation. Contact Allan today for a free consultation on your case.