Spurred by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, Ontario courts have rapidly introduced new technologies to enable court hearings to proceed virtually. One important development is the introduction of the evidence-management software Caselines. Caselines allows parties to share with judges and associate judges documentary evidence and submissions on motions, trials and other hearings. Caselines has been in use in Toronto since the summer of 2020 and across the province since July 2021.
Given Caselines’ ubiquity, courts expect counsel to be familiar with the technology and use it with a view to assisting judges and associate judges in their task of locating and reviewing evidence during virtual hearings. This sentiment was expressed by Justice Dunphy in a recent decision Basaraba v. Bridal Image Inc., 2021 ONSC 8038 (“Basaraba”).
Basaraba involved a summary judgment motion by three groups of defendants against a plaintiff. The parties on the motion filed over 2,000 pages of evidence, comprised of four motion records, discovery transcripts, cross-examination transcripts and expert reports. The parties also filed facta with references to the evidence.
In his reasons, Justice Dunphy emphasized that documents uploaded to Caselines must incorporate hyperlinks and references to Caselines page numbers. Without hyperlinks, His Honour stated “the task of checking the actual evidence against the summary narrative of the factum … is pretty much impossible in a record of this size and complexity.” Justice Dunphy went on to say “this failing alone [the lack of hyperlinks and Caselines page number references] is more than sufficient to warrant dismissal of this motion.” This last statement is the most important takeaway from the Basaraba decision. It is a warning that lawyers who submit documents to Caselines, without properly using hyperlinks and Caselines page numbers, do so at their peril.
To summarize, the Basaraba decision demonstrates that courts expect counsel to adopt the following practices with respect to documents uploaded to Caselines:
- affidavits should include internal hyperlinks to exhibits;
- facta should include external hyperlinks from endnotes or footnotes to the relevant evidence or legal authority; and
- page references should refer the reader to the page number in Caselines. Caselines paginates documents after they are uploaded so the expectation is that counsel will amend their indexes and citations after Caselines assigns page numbers to the documents.
If you have questions relating to Caselines, we encourage you to access the following resources:
- Caselines Hearings – Tips for Counsel and Self-Represented Parties: https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notices-and-orders-covid-19/supplementary-notice-september-2-2020/caseline-tips/
- Frequently Asked Questions About Thomson Reuters Caselines: https://www.ontariocourts.ca/scj/notices-and-orders-covid-19/supplementary-notice-september-2-2020/faq-caselines/
- An introduction to using Caselines (video demonstration): https://thomsonreuters.hubs.vidyard.com/watch/b1YdY2PTyvAGvEHGHK19CN