Parties in a civil court case are expected to manage the proceeding and move it forward efficiently. However, in some situations, the court can decide that parties need extra assistance to manage the proceeding and assign it for case management.

Case management is governed by rule 77 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. It is a special system designed to bring certain civil cases to a timely conclusion by early and active intervention of the court and focuses trial resources where they are needed most. It is only available in Toronto, Ottawa and the County of Essex (Windsor). Under rule 77 case management, the court may:

  • impose a timetable for steps in the litigation process
  • make other orders
  • give directions regarding the conduct of the proceeding

Intervention by the court is intended to increase efficiency and facilitate the outcome of cases by settlement or a court hearing in a timely manner. The process also provides opportunities for the parties to narrow, resolve or consolidate issues to streamline their proceeding.

Even when a case is assigned for case management by the court, the parties still have the primary responsibility for managing the proceeding and moving it forward.

Rule 37.15

If a civil case is unusually complex but it is not assigned to formal case management under rule 77, it may be subject to a different but similar form of management under rule 37.15 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. Under rule 37.15, all the motions in a case can be assigned to a particular judge or associate judge. The judge or associate judge may make procedural orders and give directions as necessary to facilitate the fastest and least expensive determination of the case. Rule 37.15 applies everywhere in Ontario.

Rule 77 case management system

Only certain cases in Toronto, Ottawa and the County of Essex (Windsor) are assigned for case management under rule 77. A judge or associate judge can assign a civil case for case management with or without the parties’ consent. The judge or associate judge will consider all relevant circumstances to determine whether to assign a civil proceeding for case management, including the specific factors listed under rule 77.05(4). These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • the complexity of the issues involved in the case
  • the importance to the public of the issues of fact or law
  • the number and type of parties and whether they are represented
  • the number of witnesses
  • whether there has already been substantial delay in the case

If a case is assigned for case management under rule 77, the amount of involvement of the court will depend on the specific needs in the case. It may also depend on the local practices and resources in the region where the case is proceeding. Under case management, judges and associate judges can exercise a number of powers to move the case forward, including:

  • presiding over case conferences
  • hearing motions
  • extending or abridging a time required by an order or the rules
  • setting a timetable
  • making orders, imposing terms, giving directions and awarding costs as necessary for the purpose of rule 77

Rule 77 exceptions

Case management is not available for certain types of civil cases in the Superior Court of Justice, including:

A case that was started under simplified procedure (Rule 76) may be assigned to Rule 77 case management if the court determines that it is necessary. If this occurs, then the simplified procedure will no longer apply to the case.

Single judge assignment

In some situations, the same judge may hear all the steps in a case-managed proceeding. The judge is assigned by the Regional Senior Judge for the court region or by another authorized judge.

If a particular judge is directed to hear all the steps in the proceeding, they must not be the judge who presides at the trial or the hearing of the application, unless all parties agree. Although the judge assigned to the case will normally hear all steps before the trial or hearing of the application, in certain circumstances they may refer a motion to an associate judge.

Mandatory mediation

All actions in Ottawa, Toronto and the County of Essex (Windsor) are subject to mandatory mediation under rule 24.1, whether they are case managed or not, unless they are exempted under rule 24.1 or by a court order. For more information, see Mandatory mediation for civil cases.

Pre-trial conference

Unless the court orders otherwise, the parties must schedule with the registrar a pre-trial conference within 180 days of the matter being set down for trial. An action is set down for trial by filing a trial record. For more information, see Steps in civil action – Step 6: pre-trial conference.

Automatic dismissal due to delay

The court registrar will dismiss a civil action if certain steps are not taken within the time required by rule 48.14 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. This rule applies to case-managed proceedings, as well as regular proceedings.

If you or another party in your case has not set your action down for trial within five years after it was started, it will be automatically dismissed for delay. However, you can keep your action from being dismissed if, at least 30 days before the five-year deadline, you either:

  • file a timetable signed by all parties
  • bring a motion for a status hearing

If you and the other parties agree to a timetable, it must:

  • identify the steps every party needs to complete before the action can be set down for trial
  • show the deadline(s) by which every party needs to complete the steps
  • show a deadline of no more than two years from the expiry of the five year deadline (in other words, no more than seven years in total after the case was started) before which the action must be set down for trial

If your action was struck off the trial list and not placed back on within two years, the same requirement applies. If you and the other parties agree to a timetable, it must show a deadline to place the action back on the trial list that is no more than four years in total since the claim was struck off the trial list.


Parties can bring a motion in case-managed actions. The motion may be heard by a judge assigned to the case or, in certain circumstances, an associate judge.

Parties may make a motion with or without supporting material or a motion record. The party who requests the motion will indicate on the notice of motion (Form 37A) whether they want the motion to be heard:

  • in person
  • in writing
  • by telephone
  • by video conference

At the end of the motion, the judge or associate judge will address the issue of costs in accordance with rule 57.03, regardless of whether the motion is disputed.

Case conference

If a proceeding is being case-managed, a judge or associate judge may hold a case conference if either:

  • a party asks for one
  • the judge or associate judge decides there should be one

Case conferences, including those in case-managed proceedings, are governed by rule 50.13 of the Rules of Civil Procedure. At a case conference the judge or associate judge may:

  • identify the issues and note those that are being disputed and those that are not
  • explore ways to resolve disputed issues
  • create or adjust a case timetable

If a party has given notice of their request to the other parties or if all the parties consent, the judge or associate judge presiding at a case conference can:

  • make a procedural order
  • arrange a pre-trial conference
  • give directions

In addition, if a judge is presiding at the case conference, they can make an order for interlocutory relief or convene a hearing.