With sweeping changes to Ontario's civil justice system and litigation laws having come into force on Jan. 1, 2010, Derek Leschinsky, an associate in the Ottawa office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, explains what exactly this means for business.

The small claims monetary limit has increased to $25,000 from $10,000 – exclusive of interest and costs – “to make cases less expensive to argue,” says Leschinsky. And, at the larger case level, there's been a drastic reduction in the amount of necessary pretrial discovery – one of the most expensive components of a civil action. “So, says Leschinsky, “that's taking a big bite out of the cost” of a civil action on both the part of businesses and citizens.

“What they're trying to do is to make the cost of litigation proportionate to the size of the case and what's involved. Another significant change is the introduction of the broader decision to terminate cases early. Under the old rules, most cases settled. So the hope is that this procedure will be used early in a procedure to limit the continuation of unmeritorious cases” and ease the current backlog in the civil courts.

“[A great deal] of [intellectual property] litigation is done in the federal courts, however, which have not adopted these changes. So there may not be as pronounced as an affect in the IP world immediately... But I think this is the way all common law legal systems are heading.

“I'm not sure these amendments are widely known, so what it will really do is discourage the culture of litigation, I think. Because there's greater ability to terminate bad cases, and the rules make it less adversarial for lawyers.”