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Posted on December 1, 2008 | Posted in Lawyers' Issues

Much has been written about the principles of civility; the duties of a lawyer to the court and to other counsel; and the duties of a judge and opposing counsel to assist an unrepresented litigant during the course of an action and trial. Little has been written about the duties of an unrepresented litigant in his or her dealings with opposing counsel and the court – until Ranonicich v. Reamy et al [2008] O.J. 2210 (MC).


The plaintiff issued a rambling statement of claim that, we gather, was so badly drafted it was difficult to determine what he really wanted. He alleged fraud and other nasty things against the defendant stockbrokers. The lawyer for the brokers served a notice of intent to defend and wrote to the plaintiff noting that he was investigating the matter and requesting that the plaintiff provide 14 days’ notice before taking any steps against the brokers. This was not a wise course of action because the plaintiff ignored the letter and, as soon as he was able, noted the brokers in default for failure to file a statement of defence. The brokers moved to set aside the noting of default and for other relief.

The Master stated,

“The plaintiff now seems to be confusing the defendants and their legal counsel. His letters to counsel have grown more and more intemperate over time. He has referred to McNish in correspondence as an idiot, brain dead, a liar and worse. He has threatened to report him to the Law Society…. He has accused him of withholding documents that he is not yet bound to produce … and accused him of complicity in the alleged fraud. … In short, he appears to be treating McNish as yet another victim of his outrage, none of which has been substantiated before the courts though this is the fourth action he has started with respect to these events.”

She then commented,

“If the plaintiff were counsel, he could face Law Society sanction for his conduct. Further, members of the Law Society of Upper Canada are informally bound by a code of civility when they deal with one another and with self-represented litigants. …I see no reason why self-represented litigants should not be expected to conduct themselves in a similar manner when dealing with counsel.”

As to the noting in default, she stated: “In view of the notice of intent having been served, it was improper for the plaintiff to take this step without at least alerting McCarthy’s that it was their intention to do so.”

Accordingly, she set aside the noting in default, adjourned the rest of the brokers’ motion, and awarded costs against the plaintiff of $800.00.


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