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Civility in the Courtroom

The recent decision in Stepita v. Dibble, 2020 ONSC 3041, demonstrates the importance of civility in the courtroom.

Justice Ferguson stated, “It is expected that parties to litigation will disagree about the issues. It is expected that they will make vigorous, fulsome arguments as to the substance of the matters before the court. It is unacceptable, however, for those arguments to rise to the level of the inflammatory language which is pervasive throughout the plaintiffs’ closing submissions”.

According to the decision, the defendant physicians were accused of, among other things, deceiving and manipulating the court and intentionally covering up facts to avoid liability.

The decision indicates that accusations were made against the defence experts that they “tried colourfully to retrospectively cover-up the negligence and suggested that they [spun] multiple nonsensical theories after the fact to try to get one to stick secondary to desperation”.

Defence counsel were also attacked. For example, according to the decision, they were accused of “trying to mislead the court through junk science based on misleading bogus assertions”.

Justice Ferguson held that “this conduct amounts to incivility and bullying” and that it “is not how the justice system operates in Ontario”.  Her Honour invited the defendants to make submissions in respect of this conduct when addressing costs.