Adapting Litigation Rules: Your Civil Dispute During COVID-19
Emergency Order Has Suspended All Limitation Periods and Procedural Deadlines in Ontario
Amidst the emergence and uncertainty posed by COVID-19, governments and health officials have made the decision to apply appropriate measures for public safety to the Ontario Courts. In a statement on March 20, 2020, Ontario suspended all limitation periods, litigation and all other dispute-oriented time periods for the duration of the emergency order. This announcement is retroactive and applicable to all civil matters to March 16, 2020, suspending them for at least 90 days.
Presently, the temporary suspension under the emergency order is presumed to run from March 16, 2020 to June 14, 2020, unless extended. If the state of emergency is deemed to be continuing, cabinet can elect to renew the emergency order for a further period of time.
The Superior Court of Justice in an announcement outlined that all criminal, family and civil matters scheduled to be heard on or after March 17, 2020 are adjourned indefinitely for the duration of the emergency order.
This decision comes given the on-going public health concerns with COVID-19. Currently, it is uncertain as to when it will be safe to return to regular protocol within courthouses. It was stated in an announcement that the Superior Court of Justice will not resume in-person hearings of matters until at least July 6, 2020. However, the court will try to continue to hear and expand the scope of the matters it can hear virtually.
What Does This Mean?
From a practical sense on ongoing litigation, the emergency order suspends time limits under the Rules of Civil Procedure. As a result, the basic two-year limitation period for issuing claims in Ontario is suspended. This also means that any step in an ongoing proceeding is suspended and paused for the duration of the emergency order. The clock on all pending cases in terms of administrative filing deadlines is paused for the time being. It is currently unknown what extension of time will be granted once the suspension is over.
Currently, the courthouses will remain open and fillings may continue to take place at courthouses in Ontario. Online fillings are also available for claims and other court documents.
It is important to note that only emergency and urgent matters will be heard during this time at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. For further information as to updates pertaining to the courts in Ontario amidst COVID-19, please visit the Ontario Courts of Justice website.
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