The Conduct of A Law Suit
People who feel they have been wronged come to us to obtain an opinion as to whether the law of the land can assist in correcting that wrong. When that involves a law suit, the suit commences with the preparation of a Statement of Claim, a document we prepare and issue at the court office. Once served, the Defendant then prepares, serves and files a Statement of Defence in an effort to defend the claim. The plaintiff (the person who commenced the action) then has a right to reply to the defence. The pleadings are then complete. In the event the case makes it to trial, the judge reads only the Statement of Claim, the Statement of Defence and the Reply in order to understand the issues prior to the start of the trial.
Before the case reaches trial, the parties must exchange Affidavits of Documents in which they list all documents relevant to the matter. This can result in many volumes of documents, depending upon the complexity of the case.
The next step is to conduct Examinations for Discovery (unless the case is one involving less than $50,000.00, in which case there are no discoveries allowed). Examinations for Discovery are opportunities for each side to learn the facts upon which the other side is relying. The lawyers for each party question the other party. This is done before a court reporter, not before a judge, and is an opportunity for each party to identify the case of the other party. Each of the parties to the litigation can then be better advised as to the real issues for trial and as to the likely outcome at trial.
Once Examinations for Discovery are complete the matter is set down for trial, usually by the plaintiff's lawyers. There is then a "pre-trial" scheduled. A pre-trial is a meeting between the lawyers for the parties and an independent judge. The lawyers prepare a brief which is a summary of the facts in order to inform the judge of the matters at issue. The judge then gives his or her opinion as to the likely outcome. This is not in the form of a ruling but is a stimulation to settlement with the judicial opinion as a guide.
If the matter is not settled, then a trial date is scheduled. At that time the lawyers complete preparation of evidence, documents and the applicable law in order to be ready to effectively represent the client in a civil trial. Most civil trials are not conducted before a jury but are heard before a judge alone. There is an option for a jury of six persons in order to listen to the evidence and make the necessary findings to determine the outcome of the trial.