Lengthy lawsuits

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When people get into a lawsuit, they often have little idea how long a lawsuit lasts.  I remember our lawyer told us when we were sued that the lawsuit may take as long as two years to conclude. I was very disappointed. My immediate reaction was, “What! Two years?? That is such a long time!” As it turned out, my next ten years after that would be spent dealing with the lawsuit!

Protracted civil lawsuits are not uncommon, even for what seems to be “simple” cases. There was a case that came out of the Court of Appeal recently: Kempf v. Nguyen 2015 ONCA 114. It’s a personal injury case. The facts are not overly complicated. The case revolves around a charity bike ride, which occurred in 2008. Cyclists who participated were asked to sign a waiver, absolving the charity organizer, the sponsor and some others from liability. A cyclist, Rolf Kempf, was injured when his front wheel hit the back wheel of a fellow cyclist, Thi Thanh Nguyen, resulting in the former being thrown off his bicycle.

In this case, both sides were fully represented. Mr. Kempf sued Mr. Nguyen in negligence. Trial finally arrived, 5 years later, in 2013.  The trial lasted 6 days. The judge released the decision two months later, in April 2013, finding Mr. Nguyen liable.

Mr. Nguyen appealed.  His appeal was successful. However, that does not mean that that the court decided in his favour either.  Rather, a new trial was ordered.

It is often surprising to people how protracted and arduous litigation can be. Part of this may be due to the fact that we have such a rigourous system. After all, when you are giving one citizen (the judge) the power to force another citizen to do something, we all want to have some safeguards in place! And we want litigants to conduct themselves fairly.  So we need rules, lots of them!  Within a lawsuit, there could be multiple mini, hearings (motions) as to how the rules are applied, each of which can be appealed. The process often seems to have no end.

In this case, the lawsuit continues, despite over 6 years of litigation and a trial. The accident happened in 2008. We are now into 2015 with no resolution. Worse still, both sides have gone through 6 days of trial. Imagine all the work the judge did, all the time spent by everyone involved, witnesses testifying, all the work that had gone into the preparation and court work by lawyers. Imagine all the emotional turmoil that both parties have gone through. They now face a new trial, the outcome of which could result in yet another appeal. Is this the way you envisioned the justice system to work?



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