12 Jul 2014


    Jurisdiction…you’ve probably heard the term, but what does it mean, how is it determined and how can it impact on the outcome of your case?

    The term jurisdiction basically refers to whether the Court hearing the case has the power to grant the orders which have been requested. The Court might lack this power because the case has been brought in the wrong country, the wrong province, before the wrong level of court, or because the law simply doesn’t provide a means to obtain the order which has been requested.

    In Ontario, our principal court is the Superior Court of Justice. This is a court of inherent jurisdiction which means that judges of this court have the power to make any order they deem appropriate. Other courts and administrative tribunals were created by the enactment of a particular law by Parliament. As a result, these courts can only exercise the powers granted to them by the law under which they were created. For example, the Small Claims Court can only award damages of $25,000 or less. These courts and tribunals were generally created to address a particular problem and have limited power to address other issues. For example, the Landlord and Tenant Board deals only with disputes between residential tenants and their landlords.

    It seems obvious that you have to sue in the right country and province, but sometimes this can get complicated. Suppose a driver from Ontario operating a vehicle registered in Quebec travels to New York State and collides with Japanese driver operating a vehicle rented in Pennsylvania.
    Determining the proper province and country in which to sue depends on the type of dispute. Many contracts say that they will be interpreted in accordance with the law of a particular jurisdiction. This is known as a choice of law provision. The law of the jurisdiction the parties have chosen applies regardless of the nationality of the parties and regardless of where in the world the dispute arises.

    If the dispute involves land, the country in which the land is located will almost always be the appropriate jurisdiction.
    Other factors relevant to deciding which country has jurisdiction are the location of the parties and the location where the events leading to the lawsuit took place.

    Even where the court of a particular country decides that it has jurisdiction over the dispute, this does not mean that the case will necessarily take place there. Each party can request that the case be heard elsewhere because this would be more convenient. The doctrine governing these kinds of requests is called forum non conveniens. In deciding whether to grant a request of this nature, the court would consider the location of the parties, the witnesses and the evidence and whether the courts of the country to which it is proposed the case should be moved would be willing to hear the case.

    Even if Ontario courts do not have jurisdiction over your dispute, you can still enforce a judgment given by the courts of another country in Ontario. For example, say that you own a vacation property in Jamaica and you have a property dispute with your neighbour, who happens to also be from Ontario. Since the property is located in Jamaica, you would have to sue in Jamaica. However, if the court rules in your favour and orders your neighbour to pay $100,000, you could bring this judgment to Ontario and ask an Ontario court to recognize it. In deciding whether to do so, an Ontario court would consider whether the Jamaican court which granted the judgment had proper jurisdiction. Once your judgment is recognized in Ontario, you could use it to recover the damages owing from your neighbour’s wages or by seizing and selling your neighbour’s property, in the same way as if the judgment had been granted in an Ontario court.

    Jurisdiction is a very complex issue. If you have a legal dispute but aren’t sure which country, province or level of court is appropriate, give us a call and we’d be happy to discuss it with you.

    Read 2170 times Last modified on Thursday, 13 August 2020 19:14
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    Walker Law Professional Corporation

    Tanya Walker obtained her law degree from Osgoode Hall at York University in 2005 and her Honours Bachelor of Commerce with a minor in Economics from McMaster University in 2002. She was called to the Ontario Bar in 2006 and created Walker Law a litigation law firm in 2010. Tanya is currently serving a term as Bencher of the Law Society of Ontario; elected by her peers as not only the first Black elected female Bencher from Toronto, in the 220-year history of the Law Society, but also as one of the youngest sitting Benchers.
 Tanya is a frequent speaker on legal issues to the Toronto Community and regularly appears on the CTV Show, Your Morning as a legal expert. She has also been named in the 2017 and 2018 Lexpert Guides as one of the Leading Lawyers to Watch in Corporate/Commercial Litigation and is also the recipient of the 2018 Women’s Business Enterprise of the Year Award.

 Tel: 647-342-2334 ext. 302 
 Email: tanya(at)tcwalkerlawyers.com


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