‘The justice system has let us down:’ Family’s wrongful death suit faces delay in Ontario courts

When he walked into a courthouse in Brampton earlier this month, Rakesh Tiwari was full of hope.

Tiwari was about to have his day in court, more than half a decade after his son killed himself while on suicide watch at a hospital in Brampton.

He filed a wrongful death suit against the William Osler Health System and some staff members in 2015 for negligence in their care of Prashant Tiwari. In the fall of 2018, a judge set the 34-day trial for January 2020.

On the day the trial was set to get underway, the judge told Tiwari and his lawyer the jury was ready to go, but there was no courtroom to hear the case – not in Brampton, Toronto, Kitchener, Orangeville or Milton.

“Now I’m stuck. There is no hope. I don’t believe it will happen,” Tiwari said in a recent phone interview, choking back tears. “First the medical system has let Prashant down, now we went to court where the justice system has let us down.”

Delays in Ontario courts are a serious problem. The province’s auditor general ripped the plodding system in a scathing report last month, and the government is trying to address it.

However, lawyers say a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling designed to speed up criminal cases – the so-called “Jordan decision” – has had a restrictive effect on civil cases.

In 2016, the country’s highest court put specific time limits on criminal cases that, if exceeded, would result in the charges being tossed for violating an accused’s constitutional right to a timely trial.

“The problem is the Jordan rule – the criminal cases get precedent over the civil cases,” Tiwari’s lawyer, Michael Smitiuch, said.

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