Quebec lawyers are reminded that they need to prepare for upcoming changes to the Quebec Code of Civil Procedures passed into law on February 20, 2014. These significant changes are in effect January 1, 2016, and will improve overall access to justice.
The Code of Civil Procedures contains all the rules that determine the course of a proceeding before the courts.
Specifically, the new Code of Civil Procedures:
- Emphasizes the obligation of the parties to a case, to cooperate and consider the use of alternative private modes of settlement of their dispute before turning to the courts. The opportunity to use an amicable settlement conference for instance, should be considered as part of the process and timetable to resolve the conflict.
- Clarifies and expands the management powers granted to judges. For example, judges can take all measures possible to simplify or speed up the procedures, limit or establish the terms of using expertise, limit the number and duration of discoveries and impose safeguard orders. This entails, among other things, summoning the parties to a case management conference at the beginning of the proceedings, establishing appropriate measures and requiring the parties’ commitments regarding the continuation of the proceedings.
- Reduces the delays occurred by discoveries. They will be limited to five instances in cases where the amount in dispute is $100,000 or more. The parties may agree among themselves to an extension from five to seven hours during discoveries. Any further extension requires court approval. It also specifies that witnesses being discovered must answer despite an objection to the relevance, thus establishing the now common practice to respond to objections to the relevance “subject to” or “under protest”.
- Reduces the amount of expertise allowed in a case. The parties will not have the right to file more than one expertise on a subject matter, except with leave of the court in complex cases or due to the development of knowledge in the field. Although the parties retain the right to present distinct expertise, the parties who do not intend to proceed with joint expertise will have to justify their decision. In the event that expert reports are contradictory, the court may order the meeting of experts or the filing of an additional report.
Several other provisions of the new Code accelerate and shorten the proceedings and reduce the costs associated with civil court claims. These measures include the right to submit written testimonies at trial to prove secondary evidence; accepting requests during court proceedings informally through notes, letters or notices; and the reintroduction of partial inadmissibility to seek dismissal of only part of a claim or defense.
You can read more about the changes in our previous post here.
Several training courses are planned to help lawyers understand and apply the new changes. There are only a few months left for Quebec lawyers to prepare for this significant reform that will change the way they practise.