When to request a Summary Trial

Trials get all the attention. But in private legal disputes between individuals or companies or a combination of the two (such disputes are known as civil cases), only 5% or less actually go to trial. Yet it is the threat of trial that is at the core of the justice system.  Without it, wrongs would never be corrected.

If you have been wronged, you need to hire a lawyer who understands that only with pressure do you get diamonds. No pressure, nothing will happen in your law suit.

Summary Trials

Pressure can come in many forms – one being a summary trial.  “Summary”[1] when it comes to a trial means without the customary legal formalities. Well not so fast. As one judge said- it is still a trial. That means you have to prove your case with legal evidence.  But in the right case asking for a Summary Trial is an excellent option.

The question is then, what is the right case?

The pre-trial steps will be discussed in future posts, at this time, suffice it to say that if evidence has been gathered, through testimony and exhibits, which are sufficiently strong to prove that you are right[2], a summary trial may be appropriate. Usually, at a Summary Trial there are no witnesses, or if there are, the number of witnesses is restricted. Generally speaking, at a summary trial the court will review the evidence and hear what the lawyers have to say.

One factor that that goes against a party’s request for a Summary Trial is when a court has to decide between competing versions of essentially the same event.  If that is the situation, the court has to decide who to believe and hence witnesses have to tell their side of the story.  And that is a regular trial.

Why Summary Trial?

Pressure!  It keeps your case moving. Do nothing and the defence believes it is winning. A Summary Trial takes a day or two.  A trial may take a week or more.  So, it is faster to schedule. Generally, it is less expensive and the risks are more controllable. It forces the other side to take a hard look at their case. Two things come of that:

  1. The Defence has to incur legal fees and if they are in jeopardy, they have to act.
  2. If you have a good case, and you take steps toward a Summary Trial, you are well positioned for negotiations that may happen. And if negotiations are not fruitful, you have your day in court sooner rather than later.

Why Chapman Riebeek LLP?

We are experienced litigators. We will work with you to assess your case and advance a litigation strategy that is tailored to your needs. Our experience gives us wisdom and we want to share that with you. If you have a litigation issue that you would like addressed, contact Gary W. Wanless or any of our litigation lawyers, who will be happy to talk with you.


[1] Canadian Oxford Dictionary

[2] In a civil case, to win you have to prove you are right on a balance of probabilities.  That equates to “more likely than not”