Amendments to the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure came into effect on January 1st, 2010. Since January 1, 2010 Wortzman Nickle has been busy attending Meet and Confer sessions with our clients and advising them on discovery plans.
Most importantly, Ontario has now formally adopted the principle of “Proportionality” and if all goes as planned, the culture of litigation in Ontario will be changing as well.
The new Ontario Rules adopt the Sedona Canada Principles and require the parties to agree upon a “Discovery Plan” (Rule 29.1.03) which includes the scope of discovery, timing for delivery of each party’s affidavit of documents, information with respect to the costs and manner for production, names of the persons who will be produced and any other information that will facilitate an expeditious, cost–effective discovery and ensure that the process is “proportionate” to the importance and complexity of the action.
Rule 1.04(1.1) will give judges the mandate to “make orders and give directions that are proportionate to the importance and complexity of the issues, and to the amount involved”. The new Rules further entrench “Proportionality” into the discovery process by providing the court with guidelines to consider when deciding whether a party must answer a question or produce a document (Rules 29.2.03):
The Supreme Court of Canada recently considered the principle of proportionality in Marcotte v. Longueil (City), 2009 SCC 43 (CanLII). Although the decision deals with a class action case in Quebec, the majority of the Court affirmed that the principle of proportionality confers a real power on the courts, and is not just limited to a principle of interpretation. The Supreme Court further held that proportionality is a valuable source of the courts’ power to intervene in case management to ensure that the litigation is consistent with the principles of good faith and balance between litigants.
The courts have always had the discretion to either expand or restrict discovery and production. (See the recent decision of Justice Cullity in Pearson v. Inco Limited, 2009 CanLII 37928 (On S.C.).) The new Ontario Rules, however, charge the courts with a more active role.
Lawyers beware – the days of the “document dump” are over. Similarly, the days of making unreasonable production requests are over. The new Ontario Rules require counsel to co-operate and work together to come up with a Discovery Plan. If they are unable to do so, the courts will intervene and apply the principle of proportionality in order to ensure that actions are not extended for years unnecessarily thereby increasing costs astronomically.
If you require assistance with your Discovery Plan, contact Wortzman Nickle.