Frustration levels are rising for plaintiffs in civil actions as court date scheduling becomes more difficult than ever before, says Ottawa personal injury lawyer Howard Yegendorf.
Yegendorf, principal of Howard Yegendorf & Associates LLP, says the recent Supreme Court of Canada decision in R v. Jordan, which gave prosecutors hard deadlines for criminal matters to get to trial without risking dismissal for delay, has exacerbated the problem, with the Superior Court apparently focusing its workload on clearing a backlog of criminal cases.
“It’s getting harder and harder to get motion and trial dates in Ottawa for civil cases.” “Criminal cases have obviously taken priority because they don’t want to miss the deadlines, which means civil cases have unfortunately lost priority.
“These are very serious civil cases too. Many of these people are older and badly injured, and they are waiting for compensation. It’s very frustrating for them,” he adds.
But Yegendorf says the Jordan decision is not the only cause of delay, adding that it has merely exacerbated an existing problem in the court system.
“There are also many delays due to defence counsel calendars. It’s hard enough to get availability from them in the next year and a half. Add in the Jordan decision, and plaintiffs are waiting a really long time to get their cases heard,” he says.
Federal government statistics show that Ontario’s Superior Court currently has 10 vacancies, but a recent report by Metro suggested the problem is even worse in the Eastern Ontario region that covers Ottawa. The newspaper estimates the vacancy rate for federally appointed judges in that region could soon hit 26 per cent, well above the provincial average of about four per cent.