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When faced with a business-related dispute, understanding the steps involved before initiating a legal proceeding in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice is crucial to protect your rights and reaching a proper conclusion.

Three main steps in a legal action

Whether you’re dealing with contractual disputes, business conflicts, or financial disagreements, there are three stages of a legal action in Ontario.

  1. Pleading stage: the plaintiff has their statement of claim issued by the court. That document formally starts the litigation process. The statement of claim states the legal and factual basis for the claim. The defendant then responds with their statement of defence, which the plaintiff can reply to, if necessary;
  2. Discovery/evidence stage: the parties exchange their relevant documents and then are examined by the opposing lawyer who will question them about their evidence; and
  3. Trial stage: the court holds a pre-trial conference and then the trial happens.

Getting a case to trial takes about three years. This time can vary significantly depending on the nature and urgency of the case.


A motion is a formal request asking the court to rule on a particular issue. If there are procedural or substantive disputes between the parties during the legal action, then the party that is denied something can bring a motion to the court to resolve the dispute. The judge then decides that issue and the legal action continues. For example, during the discovery stage a motion may be needed to resolve a dispute over which documents should be produced.


A settlement can happen at any time. In fact, more than 90% of commercial litigation cases settle before proceeding to trial. However, reaching a settlement is unpredictable and every case should be prepared as if it will go to trial.

Cost recovery

In Ontario, generally, the successful party in a legal action usually recovers 50% of their legal fees from the loser. Costs are always at the court’s discretion.

Experienced legal support for your commercial litigation needs

Our team of business and commercial litigation lawyers understands the unique challenges faced by businesses today. With extensive court experience at all levels, including the Superior Court of Justice, Divisional Court, Court of Appeal for Ontario, Federal Court (Canada), Federal Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada, we know how to protect your rights and ensure you reach a proper conclusion to your commercial dispute.

If you have any questions about the information discussed in this article or require assistance with any other business litigation matters, don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected] or reach out to any lawyer in our Commercial Litigation department.

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