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« On is still in mourning: a widower exhausted by court delays in Ontario

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Widower Jean-Pierre Ebelé says he is emotionally exhausted by the excessive delays in the justice system in Ontario. He wonders why there are no “safeguards” in civil cases.

  • Camille Kasisi-Monet (View profile)Camille Kasisi-Monet

Nearly five years after losing his wife in a tragic accident in Ottawa, Jean-Pierre Ebelé is still fighting in court to obtain compensation. The Gatineau resident denounces the slowness of civil procedures in Ontario, which prevents him from mourning.

On the morning of November 23, 2018, Jeanne Virginie Ngo Yetna was walking to her bus stop when she was struck by a City of Ottawa Fire Department vehicle at the corner of Fisher Avenue and Baseline Road. While responding to an emergency call, the driver allegedly collided with another vehicle, which caused it to deviate from its lane, subsequently hitting Ms. Ngo Yetna. The latter died the day after the accident.

Five years after the fateful event, the family of the deceased is involved in a maze of legal proceedings. The widower, Jean-Pierre Ebelé, filed a lawsuit in November 2020 against the City of Ottawa and the other driver involved in the accident.

Today, he is exhausted. I'm tired of repeating the same things for five years, […] it's emotionally exhausting, he laments. According to him, all these years without settlement are excessive.

The file left in the hands of Mr. Ebelé is stalling, in particular because two vehicles were involved in the accident. The judge must therefore determine the share of responsibility of each, thanks to the expert opinions and counter-expertise of the parties. Since no out-of-court settlement was reached, a trial is scheduled to begin on January 24, 2024, which is 62 months after the accident and 38 months after the lawsuit was filed.

There is a trial about to begin, but what does that bode for? For how long? Are we going to end it there? […] It's very difficult to live in this situation because we are still in mourning. We are always in mourning because, each time, there is this trial underway. As long as it is not closed, we have not closed this page, deplores the widower.

The lawsuit is being heard in the Superior Court of Ontario, as the amount of the claim is more than $35,000. Mr. Ebelé, however, did not want to disclose the amount he would like to receive in damages for the loss of his wife.

Ontario: He It is possible to sue an individual or a company for damages following a road accident. The complainant can request a sum of money and obtain compensation for the harm caused.

Quebec: The “no fault» applies without regard to the liability of the driver. Any legal action for damages resulting from an automobile accident is prohibited. The aim of this scheme is to allow victims to avoid costly legal proceedings to receive compensation.

The litigation surrounding the death of Ms. Ngo Yetna is not particularly complex, according to Louise Bélanger-Hardy, full professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa.

On the other hand, the fact that the two insurance companies in the case – that of the City of Ottawa and the civil party – do not want to impute liability lengthens the delays. They blame each other, it adds a certain level of complexity. We need expert evidence to try to decide responsibility, underlines the lawyer.

The City of Ottawa refused to grant an interview to Radio-Canada given that the matter is ongoing. On the other hand, in a written statement, she mentions that this collision is the subject of an internal analysis in order to see if improvements are possible and to prevent other similar events from occurring.

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According to Professor Louise Bélanger-Hardy, citizens' financial losses are accentuated by legal delays.

According to Mr. Bélanger-Hardy, the delay of several years in this case has become usual today since we are still experiencing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. She adds that the delays are explained by the accumulation of cases which have not been heard and by the fact that there is no rule on the duration of civil cases, unlike criminal trials.

In addition to additional costs, the most important consequence of delays on litigants, c& #x27;is that Canadians simply have less access to justice.

A quote from Louise Bélanger-Hardy, full professor at the Faculty of Law at the University of Ottawa

The labor shortage x27;work and the lack of staff also have significant repercussions on legal delays, recalls the professor. There is no one to hear the causes and everyone is waiting for these reasons, she emphasizes.

One of the directors of the Society of Litigators, an organization which brings together more than 6,000 Canadian jurists campaigning for a better justice system, recalls that there are 18 vacant judge positions at the Superior Court of Ontario, a problem that she describes as chronic.

It is inexcusable to have vacant judge positions while our courts are understaffed and qualified candidates exist.

A quote from Kirsten Crain, Director at the Mooters' Society

Mr. Kirsten Crain adds that excessive delays also persist since the courts are not required to count or list them. According to her, the provinces cannot remedy this, because they have no clear vision of the extent of the problem.

Moreover, a study by the Society of Litigators published in June 2023 reveals that it currently takes nearly a year and a half for a motion lasting more than two hours to be heard by a judge in Toronto, and more than three years for a trial lasting more than five days. However, the organization did not take into account the delays at the Ottawa Court of Justice.

The director of the Society of Litigators recalls that there are not only significant delays before being able to obtain a hearing date, but also in obtaining a decision. Even after completing the hearings of a trial, it can take between six months and a year before the judge makes a decision, which is extremely long, emphasizes Me Fear.

When contacted by Radio-Canada, the Office of the Attorney General of Ontario did not respond to questions about what it planned to do to remedy legal delays in the province.

Mr. Ebelé deplores the psychological repercussions of the wait in which he is plunged. Things are dragging on for the simple reason that there are people who blockades for economic interests, without caring [for the victims].

As long as this file is not closed, we still have a sword of Damocles over our heads […] and we are still in mourning.

A quote from Jean-Pierre Ebelé, widower

The Gatineau resident wonders why there are no safeguards in civil cases. According to him, delays should be required, for example by requiring the submission of one of the second-expertise reports, which was executed more than a year ago in his file. As long as this report is not delivered, we cannot evolve, he sighs.

Me Louise Bélanger-Hardy points out that solutions exist to reduce delays in civil justice. According to her, it would be essential to provide more funding to the justice system as a whole in order to see an increase in court staff. She also believes that rules should be imposed on the length of trials, although this type of protocol is difficult to apply.

Also, better use of technology could also greatly help. Effective electronic procedures were developed before and during the pandemic, such as electronic filing of legal documents or virtual hearings.

In the absence immediate solutions, Jean-Pierre Ebelé remains hopeful that justice will one day be done. For him, the settlement of his case will be a release. It can't replace a human being, […] but there will be some comfort in knowing that people have been found guilty, he confides.

  • Camille Kasisi-Monet (View profile)Camille Kasisi-MonetFollow
Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116