Federal and Provincial Courts Close Due to COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended every facet of regular life. For personal injury lawyers and their clients, that includes widespread closures in the federal and provincial court systems. At Will Davidson LLP, we know that injuries happen every day, even when the courts are closed to the public. Below, you’ll find a brief timeline of federal and provincial court closures, some thoughts on why the courts have been forced to suspend operations, and a look at how the closures may affect your case. We’ll also discuss how Will Davidson LLP can help during these unprecedented times.
Court Closures at the Federal and Provincial Levels
Federal and provincial courts began to close when COVID-19 hit Canada in earnest in mid-March. On the 15th, the Canadian Supreme Court announced in-person sittings scheduled for the 16th to the 27th would be adjourned; the Ontario Courts also announced special measures. Here is a list of updates and announcements from the provincial and federal courts:
- Mar 13: Criminal and civil jury trials are suspended in Ontario
- Mar 16: Small claims court sittings are suspended in Ontario
- Mar 17: Federal court adjourns hearings scheduled for the next 30 days; Ontario Court of Appeal suspends scheduled appeals for three weeks, except under urgent circumstances
- Mar 19: By this date, the Supreme Court of Canada Building in Ottawa was closed to visitors; the court remained open for court-related matters. The federal Court of Appeal also announced that the period from March 16 to April 17 would not be included in calculations of filing deadlines
- Mar 20: The Ontario Court of Justice reduces the number of courtrooms available for criminal and family matters; the Chief Justice of Canada also released a statement:
“Canada’s Chief Justices are actively working to limit the spread of the virus at their respective courts in order to protect all citizens,” the Right Honourable Richard Wagner wrote. “Canadians can be assured that the justice system continues to function on their behalf and the rule of law prevails. That said, all courts are taking measures to adapt as required.”
- Mar 23: The Ontario Court of Appeal closes its public counter
- Mar 25: The Supreme Court of Canada adjourns hearings scheduled for March, April, and May until June, at the earliest
Why are the Courts Closing?
As everyone is now aware, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 is an aggressively communicable disease that can be transmitted by air and lives on surfaces for hours, if not days. To make matters worse, people who contract the disease may not show symptoms for up to a week. Some carriers are entirely asymptomatic; others show only mild symptoms. Research suggests that all carriers are contagious.
In other words, it is unsafe for people to gather in groups right now, especially when the gathering occurs in a confined space like a courtroom. Limiting access to the courts is a necessary step in preventing the spread of the virus.
However, some legal professionals, including some personal injury lawyers, believe the disruption could be more limited if the courts were willing to embrace new technology.
“There are technological solutions to every part of this problem that are already implemented across most of the U.S., for instance, such as full electronic filing and viewing documents,” one litigator told Canadian Lawyer magazine. “And then when you add to that telephonic or online hearings, essentially, you can still continue to run most of the court system remotely … if you so wanted.”
How will the Closures Affect Personal Injury Lawyers?
The limited operations of the federal and provincial courts may present challenges for plaintiffs in personal injury cases. However, when our personal injury lawyers initiate lawsuits on behalf of seriously injured accident victims, they do so knowing clients rely on financial compensation to fund their ongoing care and recovery. With that in mind, our personal injury team is equipped to maintain communication with clients and ensure their cases move forward, despite the closures. We also have technology in place to accept new clients who need our assistance.
The spread of COVID-19 is an international crisis that does not discriminate. People from every walk of life have been, and will be, affected. Now is the time to pull together as a community and do our part to support the most vulnerable among us.
How Will Davidson LLP can Help
Will Davidson LLP will continue to provide legal services to all clients during these unprecedented and uncertain times. Our team of experienced personal injury lawyers has technology in place to provide a seamless client experience. If you or a member of your family has been injured in an accident, contact Will Davidson LLP today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. Our team will review your case, explain your legal options, and lay out the next steps. Contact us today to learn more. As always, our services are available on a contingency basis.