LAO Newsroom

Changes to Legal Aid Ontario’s Civil Litigation Coverage

Posted on: Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) has made changes to certificate coverage for civil litigation matters. Civil litigation certificates are still available to eligible individuals responding to third-party confidential records applications in criminal cases (O’Connor/Mills applications), and for test cases (as approved by the Group Applications and Test Case Committee GATCC and which meet the criteria for that program). However, civil litigation certificates for other matters, the majority of which are for opinion letters and not full representation, are no longer available as of April 1, 2010.

Notably, these changes apply to civil litigation coverage only. They do not affect civil certificates issued for correctional law matters, Consent and Capacity Board and Ontario Review Board matters, or administrative board and tribunal matters.

LAO issues over 100,000 certificates each year. About 600, or 0.5% of all certificates issued, are for civil litigation claims. The majority of these (about 85% in 2008-09) are for legal opinions. Most do not get past the opinion letter stage, either because the matter is judged to lack merit, or because the certificate is unacknowledged – with coverage beyond the opinion stage for disbursements only. The majority of the remaining 15% of civil litigation certificates are issued for O’Connor/Mills applications and GATCC-approved test cases; as indicated, these are still eligible.

Low-income Ontarians who would have previously qualified for civil litigation opinion certificates can still pursue meritorious claims through contingency fee arrangements. These arose as a viable alternative to legally-aided civil claims in October 2004.This option has enabled LAO to concentrate civil certificate resources in areas where full representation is most often required.

The following chart illustrates the types of civil litigation matters that continue to be covered by LAO, along with a non-exhaustive list of matters that are no longer covered as of April 1, 2010:

Matters still eligible for a civil litigation certificate:

  • Responding to third-party confidential records application in criminal cases (O’Connor/Mills)
  • Test cases (as approved by the GATCC)

Partial list of matters where civil litigation certificates not available:

  • Wrongful dismissal
  • Civil fraud
  • Real estate or mortgage actions
  • Personal injury or medical malpractice
  • Actions for damages against a lawyer
  • Actions against LAO