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Joint Expert Evidence in the New Code of Civil Procedure

Well it’s here! The New Code of Civil Procedure came into force January 1st, 2016[1]!  Several years of work were required to get here and begin the massive reform to procedural rules in Quebec. The Code’s reform is the first since 1965. This New Code’s objective is to unclog our courts and facilitate access to civil justice. The new rules of civil procedure aim to create a faster and cheaper justice system for all citizens.  In this sense, the New Code provides a wide range of new legal provisions. Amongst them is the simplified procedure for an expert witness.

Under the old Code of Civil Procedure[2], each party had to seek their own expert witness. As a result, the courts often had to decide a case based on contradictory expertise. Debates between the experts required considerable time and was extremely costly for both parties. By adopting the New Code, the legislature aims, essentially, to eliminate these problems. In fact, the New Code imposes on both parties, with a few specific exceptions, to use joint expert evidence.

The norm will therefore be one expert, with several experts being the exception.  Generally speaking, the costs and delays related to expert evidence will be reduced and access to justice will potentially be improved.

From a more practical point of view, the parties will have to talk about expert evidence from the beginning of a court case. Should the parties opt to have a joint expert, they will have to determine the different terms from the start[3]. On the other hand, should the parties choose to have different experts, following the parties’ explanations and justifications, and as a management measure, the courts will determine if they are reasonable grounds, and if they will impose a joint expert or allow the request for multiple experts[4].

In conclusion, the objectives pursued by the New Code tend to adequately answer a real problem that existed regarding contradictory expertise. Only time will tell if the solution of having a single expert will truly have the desired impact to facilitate the judicial debate for the litigants and favour better access to justice.

[1] Code of Civil Procedure, c. C-25-01.

[2] Code of Civil Procedure, c. C-25

[3] Article 233 al. 1 N.C.C.P.

[4] Article 158 al. 1 paragr. 2 N.C.C.P.

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