Written by Michael Theroux, Laura Gill and Justin Duguay
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.
This blog post was last updated on March 24, 2020, and again on April 1, 2020.
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: All Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta 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 will be available for all Queen's Bench judicial centres. Current Fax Filing Agreements will remain in effect but will be 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.
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: Parties should continue to file and serve notices of appeal or applications for leave to appeal within required time periods. The Court of Appeal registry will continue to accept filings. However, to support social distancing, the registry counter will close and all are encouraged to file new appeals and applications for leave to appeal electronically, by fax, or by mail. After filing and serving new notices of appeal or applications for leave to appeal, all subsequent filing and service deadlines will be suspended and will start to run again beginning on May 4, 2020, unless otherwise directed.
- 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.
- 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: Other statutory filing deadlines and limitation periods continue to apply. When the Court resumes regular operations, parties may request an extension of time for deadlines set out in other statutes, which the Court will determine on a case-by-case basis. The Court will not hear applications for extensions of time until regular operations resume.
- 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.
- 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. However, where procedural rules or court orders require the regular filing of documents during this emergency period, and it becomes impossible to file at the courthouse or the courthouse is believed to be unsafe, parties can expect the Court to grant extensions of time once the Court's normal operations resume.
- 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.