What are the steps of a lawsuit?

The legal world is frightening at first, and not without reason. It appears obscure, unfamiliar and complex. Its decorum, its language, its codes and its rules don’t address the litigants who find themselves helpless when confronted with it. However, a lawsuit adheres to a strictly regulated process consisting of various deadlines leading up to the trial. Each party abides by the same rules with the goal of proving the facts alleged in the hope of convincing the judge to decide in their favor.

The litigation procedure follows the rules enacted in Book II of the Code of Civil Procedure, which will be the only one addressed in this article. Discover the different steps that constitute a lawsuit.

The statement of claim

In a lawsuit, the statement of claim is the pleading that introduces the proceeding. It must allege the facts that one wishes to prove and include the conclusions sought such as the award of damages or the termination of a lease contract. The statement of claim must contain a notice of summons in accordance with the model established by the Minister of Justice, which includes a mention of the exhibits in support of the claim. It must also be served by a bailiff and must be subject to a judicial tariff which must be paid at the time of filing the application at the court registry.

The response

Following the signification of the statement of claim, the defendant must notify and file a response within 15 days. Failure to comply with this deadline may result in the defending party being convicted and paying legal costs. The formulation of the response is accompanied by the payment of a judicial tariff. The response must indicate whether the defendant is self-represented or represented by counsel, as well as their intention to reach a settlement or to contest the claim. Where appropriate, the parties will need to establish a protocol for the proceeding.

The protocol

Another step in a lawsuit, the protocol of the proceeding is the legal contract that binds the parties. It is the game plan established by consent and provides for all the steps necessary to prepare the file and successfully conduct the proceeding. The deadline for the preparation of the file is 180 days and one year in family matters. This period may be extended by the court at a management conference, in particular due to the complexity of the case or if special circumstances warrant it.

The protocol of the proceeding specifies the operations to be carried out, their deadline and the foreseeable costs of the legal fees. The stated objective of the protocol is to ensure the proper conduct of the case and its preparation within the strict 180-day deadline. The protocol indicates whether the parties wish to proceed with preliminary exceptions (declinatory and inadmissible exceptions), safeguarding measures, expert opinions and prior interrogations. The protocol must also indicate whether the defense is written or oral and document the defenses where appropriate.

Finally, the protocol indicates the presentation dates of the exhibits and written declarations that support the testimony. If the parties do not agree on the establishment of the protocol, they must proceed by management notice for it to be enshrined by the court. In this case, management orders will act as protocol between the parties and they will have to comply. Once all the steps of the protocol have been duly completed, the file must be enshrined for trial and judgment.

Registration for trial and judgment

The registration application for trial and judgment is made by joint declaration. This is a form to be completed by the parties, which includes the names of the parties, their contact information and if they are represented by a lawyer. It also contains the inventory of exhibits and other evidence, the witness list and the length of the investigation. A day of trial is equal to 5 hours of instruction.

This stage of a lawsuit is also accompanied by the payment of a judicial tariff for the plaintiff. Once the registration application has been filed, the parties will be called to set the trial date.

The provisional roll in a lawsuit

The provisional roll is the hearing to which the parties are summoned to confirm that the file is complete and ready to proceed in order to set a trial date. This hearing is chaired by the Special Registrar. The plaintiff, a natural person, may apply to obtain a trial date as a priority. The proposed dates are based on the Court of competent jurisdiction (Court of Quebec or Superior Court) and the trial duration. A 5-day trial will be offered later dates than a one-day trial. In the event of a dispute over a party’s refusal to consent on the proposed dates, it is possible, upon request, to be referred to a judge to settle the dispute and set a new trial date. Once this is determined, only the final stage of the lawsuit remains.

The trial

The trial is the final step of a lawsuit of first instance. During the trial, the parties present the facts of the case and support their claims. The trial follows specific rules that must be respected. The determining factor of the trial, which influences its success, is the evidence. All the procedural steps outlined are intended only to establish the evidence on record (exhibits, expertise, examination for discovery).

The judge, unlike the parties and their counsel, does not know the case. He will scrupulously hear the parties during the trial, their witnesses, the experts, if any, and examine the documents submitted in support of their respective claim. The judge cannot rule in favor of your application if the evidence submitted is incomplete, inadmissible or absent. Moreover, the judge cannot further rule ultra petita, which is to say beyond what is requested. Once the trial is over, the judge will take the case under advisement. Although it is technically possible, judgments rendered on the bench, that is to say at the end of the trial, are very rare. The parties involved or their lawyer will receive the judgment by mail, ending the request. It must be written and reasoned before being enforced when it is not appealable.

Be properly supported during a lawsuit

All these stages of a lawsuit, although simplified, remain difficult for litigants. It is therefore strongly recommended to be represented by a lawyer. They will guide you through this complex process and provide you with the right advice so that your case results in a winning outcome.

As such, Bérard Law Firm specializes in civil and commercial litigation. Contact us now to be supported and advised by a professional and have the odds on your side.

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