Summary Judgment Motions – What does that mean for personal injury cases in Ottawa, Ontario?
What is a summary judgment motion?
In law, a summary judgment is a court judgment issued by a court in favour of one party against another party summarily, meaning obtaining a judgment without a full trial. A judgment may be issued on the merits of an entire court action (legal case), or on one or more discrete issues in that case.  It means obtaining a judgment without the need of a long expensive trial on the issues.  The judgment is obtained through a process called a motion which allows parties to bring issues before the Court in advance of a trial.
The Supreme Court of Canada has recently decided on two cases involving summary judgment motions and has said that the Courts should apply a broad interpretation of the summary judgment rules.  The competing principles involved were access to justice while applying proportionality in the application of a fair and expeditious resolution of court actions.
In the cases of Hryniak v. Mauldin and Bruno Appliance and Furniture, Inc. v. Hryniak, the Supreme Court of Canada reached the conclusion that the amended summary judgment rules “must be interpreted broadly, favouring proportionality and fair access to the affordable, timely and just adjudication of claims.”
A trial is not always required in every case.  On summary judgment, a justice can make the necessary findings of fact, apply the law to those facts, and render judgment in some cases.  In Ontario, it takes a long  time to reach trial, sometimes many years and there seems to be a push for summary judgments. Accordingly, with the new principles in the recent cases, it is expected that more civil actions will be decided using summary judgment motions.
In personal injury cases, it would be rare to obtain judgment without a trial since there are almost always issues (medical, liability etc…) in contention that cannot be determined without hearing all the evidence at a trial given there are usually contradicting facts. I don’t expect to see many summary judgment motions within the personal injury context unless it involves limitation period issues.
Marc-Nicholas Quinn
Ottawa injury and accident lawyer