A Short E-Trial is a Worthwhile E-Trial

The short e-trial of Westmount-Keele Limited v. Royal Host Hotels and Resorts, 2018 ONSC 5170 is an example of the benefits of doing shorter trials electronically.

A Short E-Trial is still a Worthwhile E-Trial

Westmount-Keele Limited was a commercial dispute where, in place of a mortgage, Westmount paid $2,200,000 into court to the credit of the court action and the issue before Justice Koehnen was how much of the money Royal Host was entitled to. Justice Koehen found that Royal Host was entitled to $638,201 plus prejudgment interest at the rate of 1.72%, and praised the parties for running the case as an E-Trial.

Trial ran for 9 days. Two counsel argued in court – one for the plaintiff and one for the three defendants. The common book contained about 100 documents, filling some 5000 pages.

Counsel organized the common book documents in chronological order and provided Justice Koehnen and the court clerk with the documents on a USB stick. The court clerk’s copy became Exhibit 1. When a new document was referenced in court, i.e. a document not already on the USB sticks, it would be discussed and then – at the end of that day in court – the parties would upload the new exhibit to the court clerk’s USB stick and email the new exhibit to Justice Koehnen. All documents were searchable with optical character resolution (OCR).

Justice Koehnen thanked counsel for both parties in his decision:

“[243] Although the proceeding appears to have been aggressively fought by the parties, counsel were thoroughly professional and co-operative before me. The proceeding before me was conducted as an electronic trial that required co-ordination and co-operation of counsel. The assistance both sets of counsel provided to me was exemplary throughout.”

He also remarked that, from a judge’s perspective, it was much easier to work on a reserve judgement when the documents were so portable and searchable. 

Why this matters:This is a good example of the practical value of an e-trial even when a case is not that big. This case does not meet the “criteria” set by some E-Trial Practise Directions, yet the feedback on this e-trial was positive and compelling: when I hear a judge say a process makes their work easier, I add it to the growing pile of evidence supporting E-Trials.

This case also shows us that the courts and lawyers are keen litigate in the digital environment and are finding ways to get the job done. The judge also noted that the parties in this case fought hard on the issues, but found value in co-ordinating and co-operating so they could litigate electronically. The parties came up with a simple way to run their trial electronically, and it worked.