The Courts Are Closed – Now What?

Courts in Canada have largely shut down as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic except for emergency cases. What does this mean for a civil dispute that you might be involved in?

The case can still progress using a number of dispute resolution processes which are readily available including:

  1. Informal without prejudice meetings between the parties and their lawyers;
  2. Second Opinions. Often disputes are prolonged by a disagreement on a point of law or extent of damages suffered. It may, in some cases, be fruitful for one or both of the parties to obtain a non-binding legal opinion from an experienced lawyer not having any interest or investment in the case;
  3. Mediations are more structured than meetings between the parties and are always conducted by a mediator who is skilled in finding common ground between the parties and guiding them towards a negotiated settlement;
  4. Arbitration process can be designed by the parties to suit their purposes or the parties can agree to adopt standard published procedures.  Many commercial agreements have provisions for mandatory arbitration.  The parties can select an arbitrator they know is skilled and experienced in the area of law in question.  Arbitrations can occur quite quickly after the dispute arises and are less formal and procedure bound than trials in court.  Unless otherwise agreed,  arbitration awards are enforceable as court orders.

For the most part these processes are only available where the parties agree to employ them.  There will in some cases be reluctance from the party who is likely going to liable to pay an award to the other.  All of these methods of dispute resolution are likely to be faster and cheaper that traditional court conducted litigation.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic all of these dispute resolution processes can be conducted safely without fear of infection using video conferencing.  Pushor Mitchell has this technology and can help get you set up as well. Please contact us should you wish to explore any of these alternatives.

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