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Virtual Hearings Likely Here to Stay

In the recent decision of Scaffidi-Argentina v. Tega Homes Developments Inc, 2020 ONSC 3232, Justice MacLeod said that “virtual hearings are likely to retain a permanent place in the judicial tool box”. However, His Honour noted there will be difficulties with conducting many trials by videoconference. It is much easier to hear motions and applications remotely than trials.

In that regard, Justice MacLeod stated:

With each passing week, the court has obtained the experience, resources and technology to conduct more of its regular business in a digital setting. We are a long way from being able to conduct significant numbers of digital trials. Motions and applications that are primarily based on written evidence, written advocacy and oral submissions can much more readily take place in writing, by teleconference or by videoconference.

Justice MacLeod also indicated that there is very little likelihood of traditional trials resuming before July or September and even then, it may be possible to use court rooms only with precautions and safeguards in place.  This could significantly impact the number of cases that may be heard at one time, the number of matters that can proceed at all, and the pace at which trials proceed.

In light of this, greater consideration may be given to summary judgment motions, to attempt to at least eliminate certain issues and shorten trials.