Evidence on E-Trials: Are they worth it?

Evidence on E-trials is still limited, but here are some numbers that support that E-Trials save time and money.

E-Trials Save Time – The evidence suggests that E-Trials drop court days by about 20%. In Southwind v. Canada, counsel estimated 100 court days for the trial, but the E-Trial used only 72 days. In 2013, Justice Gans calculated that in a 60 day trial, an E-Trial would save nearly 10 court days.* In 2005, Justice Granger (as he then was) who presided over the E-Trial of GasTOPS Ltd. v. Forsyth, 2009 CanLII 66153 (ONSC), calculated that an E-Trial format would save about 40 court days in a 250 day trial.** Finally, in a 2010 decision from the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta records that counsel “opined that they felt the E-trial evidence format saved about two weeks trial time, or 40%.” Accepting that the last opinion may be overly generous, the first three examples average to a 20% savings in trial days.

Evidence on E-Trials

E-Trials Save Money – The evidence also suggests that E-Trials save money for all involved. If every day in court costs a litigant “x” dollars, then every day we shorten a trial, we save them “x” dollars. In 2013, Justice Gans calculated that his example litigants saved $12,600/day (i.e the cost of 6 lawyers working 6 hours/day at $350/hour). For a 10 day trial, that would save the parties $126,000.* In an earlier post, we calculated that in a trial with 7 parties (with each having 2 lawyers working 5 hours/day at $300/hour) an E-Trial would save the litigants $21,000/day.

Why this matters: When E-Trials save litigants time and money, they also save the courts time and money. The evidence suggests that E-Trials “free up” court days: when a trial is shortened by 10, 40 or 60 days, the courts can use those days to hear other matters.

Further, there is evidence that this is not the only savings courts experience from E-Trials. In England and Wales, all Crown Courts use the E-Trial Platform, Caselines. In April 2019, the UK government reported that this digital court system has saved more than 500 tonnes of paper since 2015.

On November 15, 2019, Justice David Masuhara and Bill MacLeod Q.C will present on “Trial Tech” for the Pacific Legal Technology Conference, and I am hopeful for more evidence on E-Trials. Justice Masuhara is a member of the BC Supreme Court Technology Committee, and he has been evaluating the various e-trial platforms that the court has agreed to test. Mr. MacLeod was counsel on the recent E-Trial of Hutchison v. Moore before the BC Supreme Court this past spring.

*Justice Arthur Gans, Ontario Superior Court of Justice, “Technology Tips for your Civil Litigation Practice”, presented at Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP, January 18, 2013 (unpublished)
** Justice B.T. Granger (as he then was), Ontario Superior Court of Justice, “Using Summation and Trial Director in the Courtroom – Better Lawyer, Better Judge, Better Justice – the Need for Judicial Leadership” presented at the Ontario Masters’ Association 2005 Fall Conference, London, Ontario, September 22-24, 2005 (unpublished)