Electronic Claims Filing in Ontario: A (Small) Step Forward
The Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General (“MAG”) recently announced that it is expanding its online electronic claims filing civil system in civil matters. Following a trial run in some jurisdictions in Ontario over the past summer, it has been expanded to all jurisdictions in Ontario. Litigants can now begin the litigation process by starting a claim online.
Litigants can enter claim information, and upload the following documents:
- Statement of Claim
- Notice of Action
- Affidavit of Litigation Guardian of a Plaintiff under a Disability
- Request for Bilingual Proceedings
- Consent to File Documents in French.
Litigants can pay the associated fees required to have their claims issued. However, those seeking a fee waiver must still attend at Court to apply for it.
All other parts in a case must be completed outside of the online system. All other documents must still be served and filed in accordance with the Rules of Civil Procedure.
This compliments other modernization efforts by the Ministry of the Attorney General, including filing claims in the Small Claims Court (maximum $25,000.00 jurisdiction), and e-mail service and establishment of case websites in Commercial List matters.
The MAG’s announcement states that the service will be expanded in the future to allow for the filing of other documents. I look forward to that as a litigator.
Hope for a Brighter Future
In my opinion, this advancement is positive but does not go far enough. It brings the system out of horse and buggy days into the 1990’s. To really modernize the system, the MAG should give litigants the option to scan and upload all documents used in a case. That includes family law cases.
Litigants should be able to upload .pdf versions of documents to a central court database. Parties, Judges and court staff could then view these documents. Parties can be granted access by a secure web portal. Login information can be made available to only those named in the lawsuit. Recipients could be notified of a new document by way of an e-mail. They can then securely view the document through the court’s web portal.
Some of the benefits would include:
- Uniformity of documents. This system would ensure each party has the same copy of any document. No more differing versions of documents with missing pages, blurred photocopies, or pages out of order.
- Easy verification of service. An electronic record would be kept showing when a file was uploaded, viewed by someone, notification was sent and received, etc.
- Environmental benefits from forgoing paper print outs and travel to court.
- Financial efficiencies in avoiding excess trips to court.
One concern raised in the past has been security of data. Putting data online enables data miners can glean personal data and use it for commercial or nefarious purposes. In my opinion, this is a red herring. For one, unless a court record is sealed, it is already public. Lawyers, researchers, and journalists regularly view files. Second, access should only be granted through a secure website, to which only the parties, their lawyers, and court staff have access. If its possible for nearly every other aspect of modern life (filing taxes, banking, social interaction, etc.), why not court?
Pie in the sky?
Not really. The court already has an electronic filing system. The general public can attend at any courthouse to view the status of a matter on a court computer. They can also look at documents (assuming the file isn’t sealed) by getting in line and asking a clerk to view the file.
Commercially available web portal systems already exist within the legal sector. They allow multiple parties to login, upload, and view documents. For example, I use Clio as matter management software, and enable clients to view certain files by logging in to the web portal.
We just need a link between these kinds of services.
If you would like to know more about have been served with a claim or are considering suing someone in a business or employment dispute, please contact me for a free initial consultation.
Disclaimer: None of the foregoing should be considered legal advice. I am not sponsored by Clio. If you would like legal advice on anything in this post, contact me at Wojtis Law here.