Estate Litigation Blog

The Courts and COVID-19


by Mitchell Rattner, Published: April 15, 2020

Tags: coronavirus,  court,  covid-19,  estate litigation,  estates,  litigation,  superior court

While there have been past efforts to integrate new technology, the Court has been primarily structured around people and paper. However, in response to recent government efforts to enforce social distancing and 'flatten the curve', the Court has embraced technological solutions, including holding hearings by videoconference and expanding its capacity to accept electronic filing of Court documentation. The (now-ubiquitous) Zoom has even found its way into Notices to the Profession. These are unprecedented times, and as an integral part of society, the Court has adapted.

In the initial aftermath following the closure of non-essential businesses and the implementation of strict social distancing requirements, the Superior Court took a cautious approach with respect to Commercial List matters (including Estates), limiting hearings only to those which met strict criteria of 'urgency'. In the Estates context, urgency was defined as a situation where "immediate and significant financial repercussions may result if there is no judicial hearing."
Here is a link to the Notice to the Profession of March 15, 2020: https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/covid-19-suspension-fam/.

Approximately two weeks later, the Court issued a subsequent Notice, expanding its remote operations. In particular, the Notice indicated expanded operations for Commercial and Estates List matters, advising that the following types of hearings may be scheduled, provided they do not exceed four hours: select motions; select applications; Case Management Conferences; Pre-Trial Conferences; and Judicial Settlement Conferences. Here is a link to the Notice to the Profession of April 2, 2020: https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notice-to-profession-to/#E_Commercial_and_Estate_List_Matters.

In line with the adaptive and flexible approach embraced by the Court, the Ontario legislature has likewise exercised its powers under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA) to make an Order temporarily suspending the operation of statutory limitation periods as well as procedural deadlines for Court proceedings in Ontario. See: https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/90e09 and https://www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/200073.

We are actively monitoring the status of Court operations. Our firm remains open as we work remotely, and we are ready and willing to provide assistance with estate, trust or guardianship litigation.

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