Are you looking for a lawyer to represent you in a civil lawsuit in Ontario? What exactly does a business lawyer do?
Business or corporate lawyers mostly deal with contracts and corporate disputes, and the following article focuses on business lawsuits in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province which is home to the Superior Court of Justice, “one of the busiest trial courts in the world.”
The Ontario Superior Court of Justice hears a range of legal matters including civil, family, and criminal proceedings and is the biggest superior trial court in Canada. The court is also one-of-a-kind with its jurisdiction “rooted in the history of the first courts of England” tracing its authority all the way back to the Magna Carta.
Fast forward a few centuries, and the Ontario Superior Court now is “entrenched” in the Canadian Constitution. According to the court’s website, “members of the public who engage in proceedings in the Superior Court should know that they are participating in a court process that distinctively traces its foundation to the very beginnings of the Common Law system.”
Ontario lawsuit lawyers often deal with litigation related to a breach of contracts, such as employment matters, complex corporate disputes, bankruptcies and insolvency proceedings, and debt collection actions.
In addition, lawyers in Ontario handle all manners of legal issues for businesses small and large, including mergers and acquisitions, trade secrets disputes, fraud and corporate misfeasance, mortgage lawsuits, as well as privacy breaches.
Legal Advice Is Different For Various Industries
An Ontario lawsuit lawyer, in turn, has to learn and know about a lot of different industries, all with their own unique challenges and nuances and needs. What’s right for an oil and gas company might not be right for a firm that makes wind turbines or plastic cutlery. What’s true for an insurance brokerage whose employees left en masse to start up a competitor down the street is likely not the same for a junior mining company looking to go public on the TSX.
Each business and industry faces its own unique legal issues and each has its own pros and cons. With the pace of technological change quickening with each passing day, disruptions, disputes, and general upheaval in businesses across a vast spectrum of industries face new threats and pitfalls that may have been unimaginable just a decade ago.
That is why, whether a business has 10 employees or 100, it’s important to hire a top business lawyer with a lot of experience dealing with commercial litigation in the cut-throat environment of Canada’s corporate capital.
It’s important that a lawyer knows their clients very well.
Civil Lawsuit Process Ontario
Business lawsuits can go on for years, meaning company executives and business lawyers will be forced to spend a lot of time together. The volume of documentary evidence in corporate disputes, such as shareholder oppression proceedings, is monumental with boxes and boxes of documents including years of accounting records, corporate communications such as emails and internal memos, and corporate meeting minute books.
Therefore, you need to pick a lawyer that you can trust who will see your case through from start to finish no matter how daunting and drawn out it may be. You should be able to call them at 4 pm on a Tuesday and get quick answers to your legal questions or send them an email on a Thursday night and get an answer promptly on a Friday morning.
The phone call and email will surely show up on your bill, but the price you pay for such attention and responsiveness will be worth it when a judge comes back with a ruling in your company’s favour. A lawyer’s or law firm’s commitment and dedication to your company’s needs could be characterized as the tightrope you walk between success and failure.
There are a lot of procedures at the Superior Court. It handles matters of great complexity and is obviously not as simple as the provincial court, where dollar amounts are relatively small and cases are resolved much faster. In the Ontario Superior Court, as with any court, you need to know how many days in advance of a hearing you need to file something, lest you get your case tossed out or delayed by an annoyed judge or opposing counsel.
Do Not Miss Deadlines With The Court
If you miss deadlines, your claim might be thrown out, and if it is you being sued, the other side might win by default. Strict filing deadlines for court materials must be adhered to if you and your company want to stand a chance of winning.
If you are being sued for $100,000 and you don’t want to hire a lawyer, it’s probably a bad idea. The money saved going it alone might seem tempting, but the cost of losing due to missed deadlines or improperly filed documents could be devastating, the pain of the loss only compounded since such mistakes are completely avoidable had you hired the right lawyer or law firm in Ontario.
You might want to save $10,000 on legal fees, but if the other side spends $10,000 on legal fees and you lose, you might have to pay them back that money with interest.
If a judge awards the other side costs, it will see your company dinged the entire $100,000 judgment plus reimbursement of the opposing side’s $10,000 in legal fees. It would be like parking your car downtown in a pay parking space on the street and neglecting to put change in the meter to save a dollar only to come back and find a $100 parking ticket on the windshield.
The effort to save a dollar on parking is clearly not worth the risk, and the same goes for lawsuits in Ontario.
Civil Lawsuits In Ontario Alleging Breach of Contract
As mentioned above, it is the duty of a business lawyer is to make sure all the court’s rules are followed to the letter. Day to day, corporate lawyers face many tasks even when they’re not in a courtroom arguing in front of a judge.
The typical court case for business lawsuits in Ontario might go as follows:
- The plaintiff or plaintiffs file a notice of claim, also known as an initiating document.
- The defendant files a response to the notice of claim, likely denying all or most allegations made by the plaintiff.
- Both parties provide each other with disclosure.
- There are examinations of both parties by the other party’s lawyer.
- There are hearings for small matters such as applications.
- The parties may avoid court and opt to go through a less-costly mediation process.
- There are pre-trial conferences and case management meetings.
- If a settlement can’t be reached, then there’s a trial that could last days, weeks or months.
- A decision gets handed down by a judge, opening up the possibility for appeals.
Civil Lawsuit Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure
If you are a busy CEO, there is no way that you will be able to take a large amount of time off work to deal with a lawsuit, be it from a competitor, a former employee, or even a government agency alleging non-compliance with provincial regulations.
Depending on the nature of the lawsuit, your company might fail just by the amount of time you spend away from the office, like a ship without a captain at the wheel sailing into a stormy sea full of sharks who smell blood in the water. If the potential damages award is large enough, legal action against your company represents an existential threat that shouldn’t be faced alone without the help of an experienced litigator.
You wouldn’t send an accountant to go to work on a marketing project. So don’t send a non-legal expert to work on a legal issue.
Here at ClearWay, we have lawyers that can help you with:
- Lawsuits against banks and financial institutions.
- Class actions lawsuits for product liability, privacy breaches, etc.
- Employment lawsuits, such as wrongful dismissals and misappropriation of confidential information.
- Issues with the CRA(hearings)
- Corporate bankruptcy
- Lawsuits involving franchises.
- Lawsuits and actions regarding real estate contracts.
How to Increase Your Chances of Winning a Lawsuit
Hire an experienced, competent lawyer
It is also important that you hire a lawyer who is honest and realistic with you about your chances of success, as well as the costs involved with litigation. An experienced litigator in commercial matters should be able to hear you out and tell you with great confidence your odds for success.
You should also know what kind of lawyer you need for your case. A first-year junior lawyer who specialized in admiralty law won’t be of much help to a tech startup facing a patent infringement lawsuit.
Be Honest with Your Lawyer
In order to help you achieve success, it is critical that you share all relevant information and documents with your lawyer, even if you think they will hurt your case. The last thing your lawyer in Ontario wants are surprises during settlement negotiations with the other side.
It is worse for harmful information to come out later. Your lawyer cannot properly advise and guide you without all key information, good or bad, for better or for worse.
Know Your Own Case During a Civil Lawsuit In Ontario
Make sure you have a general appreciation of the legal issues at play in your lawsuit and how the facts work into those issues. Were government regulations and company procedures followed when you terminated a problematic employee? Did you do a trademark search before you filed registration papers for your company’s name and logo? Did you read the fine print when you took a loan from a shareholder?
Ask your lawyer as many questions as possible when you are not sure. You want to be a helpful advocate for your position, just as they are.
What You Need to Know About a Civil Lawsuit in Ontario
The right lawyer will be there to help you win your case. Missing meetings and deadlines or ignoring your lawyer’s calls and emails will not help your case. Just as you want them to be responsive and available, the road goes both ways. Even the best lawyer can’t help an uncooperative client whose aloofness could sink even the strongest of cases.
In fact, missing key deadlines may put your entire case into jeopardy since a Judge may dismiss your claim for causing unnecessary delays.
Be Realistic During a Civil Lawsuit in Ontario
It’s imperative that you listen carefully to your lawyer’s advice. What may seem obvious to you may not be the right answer, legally speaking. An ever-evolving legal landscape with new precedents being set every day means that legal professionals need to be on the cutting edge of new developments in law and policy. The same can’t be said for laypersons who have never been in a courtroom or read a legal document.
With that in mind, your lawyer should be able to explain any obstacles that may come up.
Think About Collecting on that Judgment
If you win a lawsuit but cannot recover money from the judgment, it’s extremely vital to inform your legal counsel. Otherwise, a judgment may just end up being a piece of paper you keep in a filing cabinet in your office.
Your lawyer should help you think of ways to collect at the beginning of the lawsuit. It may seem obvious, but collecting on a judgement is the most important part of the process. If the opposing side is going broke, your lawyer should warn you against trying to get blood from a stone, to use an old but useful cliché.
Be Open to a Possible Settlement During the Litigation Process
Avoiding a lengthy and costly trial might be your best bet and settling your dispute before going to court may be a tough decision. You may not get everything you were hoping for, but there is value to achieving a good outcome at some point during the litigation process, especially considering the delays and costs associated with litigation.
In other words, sometimes it’s better to have money in your pocket now than possible success later on, especially if an appeal occurs. In that case, your pockets may end up being emptied, your company stripped and sold for parts, all because you didn’t swallow your pride and listen to good and professional advice.
Contact us if you need help with a civil lawsuit in Ontario.
Author: Alistair Vigier is the CEO of ClearWay