Written by Michael Theroux, Laura Gill and Justin Duguay
This is an update to a previous blog from March 23, 2020.
Courts across Canada are limiting hearings due to the rapidly evolving novel COVID-19 outbreak. Courts in each jurisdiction are responding differently and implementing measures that are affecting existing and contemplated civil litigation matters. We summarize below the current implications of these unprecedented circumstances on civil litigation proceedings in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. We are continuing to monitor the latest announcements from the Courts set out below and we are committed to providing you with the most up-to-date information.
Court of Appeal of Alberta
- Single-Judge Duty Matters in the Court of Appeal: Unless otherwise directed by a case management officer or a judge, all duty matters set down before a single-judge will be heard by audio conference. Providing all parties consent, any matter may be adjourned sine die, although the parties are reminded that under Rule 14.44(2), applications for permission to appeal must be heard within six months or they are deemed abandoned. Further, under Rule 14.52, all other applications (including applications to a three-judge panel) must be heard within three months or they are deemed abandoned. Applications for a fiat to extend the time may be made to a case management officer.
- Appeal Sittings and Applications Before Three-Judge Panels: Unless otherwise directed by a case management officer or a judge, all appeals and applications before a three-judge panel will be heard electronically (by videoconference or by telephone). Providing all parties consent, any appeal or application may be adjourned sine die.
- Filings: Filing deadlines for commencement documents and applications continue to apply. The Court's case management officers remain available to consider requests for extensions, fiats and other administrative directions. Effective March 23, 2020, until further notice, all documents may be filed by fax or email. Where that is not possible, documents can be delivered to the Registry and left in a designated drop-off area. Registry staff will retrieve documents from the designated area throughout the day and file them when time permits.
- Effective March 25, 2020, unless otherwise directed by a case management officer or judge, where an appeal has not yet been set for hearing, and the deadline to order or commence preparation of the appeal record and transcripts or for the filing of appeal records, transcripts, factums, extracts of key evidence and books of authorities falls on or prior to May 4, 2020, the deadline is extended by two months. Otherwise, all time limits remain in effect and must be respected.
- Further, where an appeal has been set for hearing and has not been adjourned, the deadlines to order or commence preparation of the appeal record and transcripts or for the filing of appeal records, transcripts, factums, extracts of key evidence and books of authorities remain in effect and must be respected.
Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta
- Duration of Suspension: All civil matters scheduled for hearing between March 16, 2020, and May 1, 2020, are adjourned, unless otherwise directed by the Court.
- Court Orders: Effective March 30, 2020, counsel may submit signed Master and Justice Consent Orders for processing through email. Documents will be reviewed by the clerk's office, forwarded to the Master or Justice for electronic signing, and emailed back to counsel. All Consent Orders endorsed by the Court and received via email or fax have the same force and effect as if they contain an original signature.
- Filings: Effective March 24, 2020, an enhanced email filing system for court documents is available for all Queen's Bench judicial centres. Current Fax Filing Agreements remain in effect but are interpreted to allow for use of this email filing procedure. All documents that are currently being fax filed can be filed via email utilizing your current fax filing account.
Nevertheless, all filing deadlines under the Alberta Rules of Court are suspended until May 1, 2020, with the exception of those Rules applicable to the commencement of proceedings including originating applications.
- Exceptions: The Court will hear only emergency and urgent matters. All requests for an emergency or urgent hearing during the sitting suspension period should be submitted via the online Emergency/Urgent Hearing Request Form.
Court of Appeal for British Columbia
- Duration of Suspension: All appeal hearings, chambers applications and other matters currently scheduled to occur between March 18 and May 1, 2020, are adjourned unless designated by the Chief Justice as matters that must proceed.
For matters that are not designated as matters that must proceed, parties who consent to have their appeal, chambers application, or other matter heard by teleconference or in writing may contact the registrar in writing to request the permission of the Chief Justice, or his delegate, to proceed by alternative means.
- New Appeals and Applications for Leave to Appeal: Effective March 26, 2020, required time periods to commence civil proceedings are suspended (see below for further details).
- Existing Appeals and Applications: The filing and service deadlines for all existing appeals, existing applications for leave to appeal, or other existing matters before the Court are suspended and will start to run again beginning on May 4, 2020, except for those matters designated by the Chief Justice as matters that must proceed, or unless otherwise directed.
- Limitations: On March 26, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General issued an Order pursuant to subsection 10(1) of the Emergency Program Act, suspending every mandatory limitation period and any other mandatory time period that is established in an enactment or law of British Columbia within which a civil action, proceeding, claim or appeal must be commenced in the Provincial Court, Supreme Court or Court of Appeal. The suspension of time periods is effective beginning March 26, 2020, and will remain in effect until the state of emergency declared under subsection 9(1) of the Emergency Program Act expires or is cancelled.
- Exceptions: The Court will hear only urgent matters that must proceed.
Supreme Court of British Columbia
- Duration of Suspension: All civil matters scheduled for hearing between March 19, 2020, and May 1, 2020, are adjourned unless directed otherwise by the Court.
- Filings: Effective March 18, 2020, filing deadlines under the Supreme Court Civil Rules are suspended until May 1, 2020.
- Limitations: As stated above, effective March 26, 2020, the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General suspended limitation periods and mandatory time periods for the commencement of civil proceedings.
- Exceptions: The Court will hear only essential and urgent matters.
Ontario Court of Appeal
- Duration of Suspension: All appeals scheduled to be heard between March 17 and April 3, 2020, are adjourned. During this period, parties on non-urgent appeals can request that their appeal be heard based on the written materials already filed.
Single-judge motions will continue to be heard as scheduled. The motion judge will preside remotely. Alternatively, on consent, a motion may proceed based on the written materials that the parties have filed. The Court encourages parties not to bring non-urgent motions and to request and consent to adjournments of motions that have been scheduled.
- Filings: Osgoode Hall will remain open to receive dropped off court materials only. Public service counters are closed until further notice. All filings can be mailed, emailed, or dropped off outside the Intake Office. Factums can continue to be filed electronically.
- Limitations: On March 30, 2020, the Chief Justice of Ontario and President of the Court of Appeal for Ontario issued a practice direction extending the time prescribed to take any step in any civil proceeding in the Court of Appeal. The extension is retroactive to March 16, 2020, and remains applicable until further direction of the Court. This extension of time does not apply to (i) civil proceedings in which a notice of hearing has been sent and which proceedings have not been adjourned, or (ii) civil proceedings that are being case managed.
- Exceptions: The Court will continue to hear urgent appeals.
Ontario Superior Court of Justice
- Duration of Suspension: All civil matters scheduled to be heard on or after March 17, 2020, are adjourned.
- Filings: Filings continue to occur at courthouses. In the event the courthouses become closed or are inaccessible due to safety concerns, parties can file claims through the Civil Claims Online Portal.
- Limitations: An Order filed on March 20, 2020, and made pursuant to subsection 7.1(2) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, has suspended limitation periods and procedural time periods retroactively to March 16, 2020, and "for the duration of the emergency."
- Exceptions: The Court will continue to hear urgent matters.
Courts across Canada continue to adapt to the rapidly evolving novel COVID-19 outbreak. The court suspensions across the country impact litigants' ability to meet filing deadlines for civil litigation matters and take procedural steps before the courts. It will be particularly important for litigants to consider the procedures for addressing any limitation periods arising during the period of suspension, including applications to extend the time for filing a claim if necessary.
Bennett Jones is committed to protecting the rights of its clients during these unprecedented times. If you have any questions regarding the information in this article, please contact a member of the Bennett Jones Commercial Litigation team. In addition, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Centre for other COVID-19-related materials.