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Is Physical Distancing Encouraging Litigiousness?

  • Image: “Anti-cyber bullying fix – meet the troll” by FixersUK is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

It is our neighbors to the South who have the reputation for being litigious.

Here in Canada, we regard ourselves as more friendly. More reasonable. More able to resolve disputes without necessarily resorting to full litigation.

Is the COVID-19 pandemic moving us further along the spectrum toward litigiousness, occupied by our neighbours to the South? 

Courts across Canada, including the Supreme Court of British Columbia and the Court of Appeal for British Columbia, are, as much as possible, modifying and adjusting their processes to provide as many of each Court’s normal services by telephone conferences or videoconferences.

In many proceedings, videoconferencing and teleconferencing are currently the rule rather than the exception.

This means that lawyers and others involved in litigation need not leave the comfort of their office – or home.

They may even be able to wear pyjamas, at least in telephone conference calls, anyway.

How much easier could it ever be to engage in litigation?

Several judges have expressed concern that the absence of courtroom presence may be impeding settlement, resulting in more matters proceeding to court.  When lawyers see each other at the courthouse, this provides greater opportunity for informal discussions which may result in settlement.

But another dynamic may also be at play.

Is the slow-down of in-person court proceedings, and ramping up of virtual proceedings, encouraging litigation that might not otherwise occur, particularly involving parties in the Lower Mainland who are involved in disputes with those in other parts of the province?

Lawyers – or parties to potential litigation - from the Lower Mainland may not be keen to travel to attend court proceedings in the interior, particularly if they extend over a period of time. This is all the more so if they have children they care for.

Virtual proceedings, however, are another story.   

Litigating is a lot easier when one need not leave the comfort of one’s own office. Or better yet, one’s own home.   No travel required.  No inconvenience. No expense. No fuss, no muss. Easy as can be!

Like internet bullies, now is a time when people are able to operate from behind their computer screens, or their phones without ever having to look anyone in the eye, inflicting the last salvo all from the comfort of their own home.

Until this all is behind us, the province may need to further increase its roster of judges. 

Will covid leave behind a profoundly different mindset, and an increased predisposition to readily engage in litigation?

Only time will tell.

This is a modified version of an article appearing in or around February 10, 2021 in online publications including the Kelowna Capital News. The content of this article is intended to provide very general thoughts and general information, not to provide legal advice. Advice from an experienced legal professional should be sought about your specific circumstances.  We may be reached through our website at inspirelaw.ca