DD West understands and appreciates that clients wish to avoid contentious and litigious matters as well as expensive, drawn out litigation proceedings. Where circumstances permit, we guide and counsel our clients on the appropriateness of alternative dispute resolution. If litigation cannot be avoided, our team of outstanding litigators can provide strategic legal services.
Our team collaborates with our clients to resolve their disputes and any litigation in a timely and cost-effective manner. We can also offer possible legal advice on how to avoid problems before they arise.
We can assist clients in compliance with administrative rules and procedures to ensure their rights and interests are fairly represented and protected.
Our litigators have unparalleled experience before various tribunals, courts, regulatory boards, and commissions. Our litigators have acted on a wide range of litigation matters relating to municipal and public sector clients and can assist our clients with:
- Contract and tendering disputes
- Tax assessment matters
- Allegations of unfair competition or conflict of interest
- Negligence lawsuits
- Defamation claims
- Insurance claims
- Real estate (property disputes)
- Employment (wrongful dismissal lawsuits)
- Human rights complaints
- Freedom of information and protection of privacy requests
- Energy, environmental, and regulatory matters
- By-law challenges
- Judicial reviews
- Subdivision/planning boards
- Utility regulatory boards
In today’s technological society, people have more access to information and can access it at a greater speed. People generally have more free time and some spend that time specifically reviewing the actions of municipalities and their personnel. Thus, municipalities have to be ever vigilant in ensuring that they comply with all applicable legislation affecting them.
Councils and councillors must also be aware of, and take into consideration, their acts so as not to attract a claim of abuse of office or defamation.
The Litigation Process
1: Case Assessment
This stage of the process includes the investigation, research, and assessment of the likelihood of success of your case. We will assemble and review documents, conduct interviews, and make initial contact with potential experts so we can provide you with the best assessment of your legal rights and position. Following our assessment, we will meet with you and review the assessment and your options, and then assist you in determining your best course of action.
Briefly, “pleadings” are the official documents filed with the Court office that set out the basis of a litigation matter. A civil litigation matter is usually commenced with a “Statement of Claim.” A Statement of Claim is filed by a plaintiff and it sets out its position as to what occurred, who the plaintiff feels is responsible for the actions, and what damages the plaintiff suffered as a result of those actions.
Once the Statement of Claim is served upon the defendant, the defendant must file a “Statement of Defence” within a court-prescribed time frame. If the Statement of Defence is not filed in time, the defendant is at risk of being noted in default and a judgment could be issued by the Court without further consultation or input by the defendant.
A defendant may also issue a “Third Party Claim.” In this document, a defendant would allege that if any liability is found against them, it is entitled to seek damages from the third party named, as the defendant would allege the third party is wholly or partly responsible for the damages sustained by the plaintiff. A third party would have the opportunity to file a defence to the third party claim.
Once the pleadings have been exchanged and filed with the Court, the parties prepare and exchange affidavits of documents. A party in a litigation matter must conduct a comprehensive search of its records — both written and electronic forms — and list each relevant record in the “Affidavit of Documents.” Certain records are “privileged” and do not have to be disclosed to the opposing party. The basis for privilege will be discussed further directly with you.
After the Affidavits of Documents have been exchanged and copies of the relevant and non-privileged records have been provided to all parties, “Examinations for Discovery” are conducted. During this process, the lawyers and their clients meet together with a court reporter (someone who will transcribe the Examinations for Discovery), and the lawyers will ask questions of the opposing party. The questions and responses are recorded for later use. The purpose of Examinations for Discovery is to:
- learn what the opposing party is going to say about matters in issue
- learn about the opposing party’s case to avoid any surprises at trial
- determine how the opposing party is going to prove his or her case
- determine what the opposing party is going to say about your case
- review the document relevant to the case
- obtain admissions for use at trial
- commit a party to their testimony
- narrow the issues for trial
- assess the strengths and weaknesses of the case and of the witnesses
During Examinations for Discovery, “undertakings” are sometimes given. These are requests to provide copies of documents or provide information that were not or were unable to be provided during the actual Examinations for Discovery.
4: Pre-Trial Conference
Once the transcripts from the Examinations of Discovery are reviewed and all responses to the undertakings given have been exchanged, the case is prepared for “pre-trial”. A “pre-trial” is a meeting between the lawyers and a judge, where the judge assesses if the parties have completed all necessary steps and are ready to proceed to a trial.
The trial is the process of putting the case, through documents and through witnesses, before the court for determination of the issues. Preparing for a trial involves many hours of evidence review and summarization, legal research, and witness preparation. Aside from putting forth the evidence for consideration by the judgment, a significant amount of time is spent preparing arguments to be used during the trial to establish the legal positions for your case.