Although Casey & Moss’s offices are in downtown Toronto, we represent clients throughout the province of Ontario (not to mention clients who live outside Ontario and abroad).

When a client first retains us to respond to or to start litigation, they often ask what Ontario city the litigation is going to proceed in. This is especially true if the client, the other parties, the incapable person, or the deceased’s assets are located in different cities across Ontario.

There are several considerations that go into a decision about where to start litigation in Ontario.

First, if our client has been brought into an already-ongoing court proceeding as a respondent or a defendant, we will generally agree to the jurisdiction of the litigation selected by the applicant or plaintiff. Most court appearances and hearings under an hour long continue to take place over Zoom. As a result, it is just as easy for us to appear in court in Toronto, Kingston, or Thunder Bay. We no longer have to travel to courthouses outside Toronto, unless we are appearing on long motions, application hearings, or trials. Mediations and cross-examinations can also take place remotely, especially if parties and lawyers are based in difference cities around the province. This makes it easy and cost-effective for us to represent clients involved in litigation outside Toronto.

If our client is commencing litigation, several considerations come into play when choosing where to bring the proceeding.

The Rules of Civil Procedure say that if there is no statute or rule requiring a proceeding to be commenced in a particular county, then the proceeding may be commenced at any court office in any county named in the originating process.

We often recommend that our clients start litigation in Toronto, even if they or the other parties aren’t located in Toronto, because Toronto is home to the Superior Court of Justice Estates list.

The Estates List is a specialized court in Toronto comprised of judges who hear proceedings exclusively involving issues of estate, trust and capacity law. Currently, there are four judges sitting on the Estates List. Each of these judges has extensive experience with estate litigation. The judges not only have familiarity with these types of proceedings, but court procedure on the Estates List is tailor-made for estate litigation. For example, we can book 15-minute scheduling appointments before an Estates List judge so that we can quickly and inexpensively get orders for production of documents like medical records, which is frequently one of the first steps in estate litigation. Another factor is that there is mandatory mediation for estate matters in Toronto, which can mean earlier settlement discussions and chances for resolution.

In our experience, if we bring a proceeding on the Estates List in Toronto, counsel in other cities rarely object or seek to have the proceeding transferred to a different courthouse. This is because of the expertise and efficiency of the Toronto Estates List, as well as the fact that counsel outside Toronto don’t have to travel to Toronto to attend in-person scheduling appointments, case conferences, short hearings, or mediations. All of this can be done over Zoom.

The decision about where to start litigation is something we discuss early on with our clients and is a decision we make together, based on what we think will be most efficient and cost-effective.


Cara Zacks

Nothing contained in this post constitutes legal advice or establishes a solicitor-client relationship. If you have any questions regarding your legal rights or legal obligations, you should consult a lawyer.