An overwhelming demand for dispute resolution services has created a backlog of cases awaiting mediation at the Financial Services Commission of Ontario. The 2013 Ontario Budget called for the appointment of an expert to review the system and propose changes. The Ontario Minister of Finance Charles Sousa appointed The Honourable J. Douglas Cunningham, QC, former Associate Chief Justice of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, to conduct the review of Ontario’s dispute resolution system.
The Ministry of Finance called for submissions from stakeholders involved in the dispute resolution process. The Honourable J. Douglas Cunningham, QC reviewed the submissions and took part in stakeholder meetings to get a clear picture of the problems facing the dispute resolution process in Ontario.
The Honourable J. Douglas Cunningham, QC speedily completed an interim report in October 2013. The interim report includes: an overview of the history and structure of the Ontario automobile insurance dispute resolution system; the structure of automobile insurance dispute resolution systems across Canada and in other jurisdictions; and trends in the current Ontario dispute resolution system. A final report, including final recommendations, will be released in February, 2014.
The interim report is intended to open up further dialogue about the dispute resolution system before final recommendations are complete.
The report proposes a model for dispute resolution in Ontario:
- A new system ought to be introduced that consolidates the strengths of the existing mediation and arbitration process to facilitate a more efficient model.
- The entire process for dispute resolution would take no longer than 6 months from start to finish.
- Every Ontario auto insurance company is to establish a formal internal review process. This process would take place within a 30 day window.
- If the parties cannot resolve their dispute, the claimant would then be free to file an application with the new ADR body.
- A case manager would serve as a gatekeeper to the process and would review each application to determine whether the parties are ready to proceed through the system.
- Once everything is in order, the case would immediately be assigned to an arbitrator who would arrange mediation within 45 days. The arbitrator might provide a non-binding opinion on the likely outcome.
- If the mediation fails to produce a settlement, the arbitrator would immediately schedule a hearing for the parties and would determine whether the case should be subject to a paper hearing, an expedited summary in-person hearing or a full in-person hearing.
- A paper hearing would take place within 60 days of the mediation, while an in-person hearing would take place within 90 days.
- Rules would be established setting out timelines, sanctions for non-compliance and other provisions to ensure the parties follow the principles set out in the report.
- There would be a prohibition on adjournments in all but the most exceptional cases.
- Each case would be decided on the merits of that case alone.
- Decisions would be issued within 45 days of an in-person hearing and within 30 days for a paper hearing.
To view the Interim Report please click here: Ontario Automobile Insurance Dispute Resolution System Review – Interim Report