Recent amendments to the Rules of Civil Procedure should greatly reduce the number of administrative dismissals of Actions.
Effective January 1, 2015, an Action which is not set down for trial or otherwise disposed of within five years of its commencement will automatically be dismissed. This is in stark contrast with the current regime, whereby such an Action will generally be dismissed two years after its commencement, unless the parties agree to and file a Timetable with the Court, or the Plaintiff shows cause at a Status Hearings as to why it should not be dismissed.
The changes are subject to some “grandfathering” provisions. For instances, Status Hearings booked, but not heard, before January 1, 2015, will continue to be governed by the current Rules.
The changes are a partial return to our past, when it was left to the parties to police how quickly an Action was advanced. Parties are, of course, still free to bring Motions seeking to dismiss Actions for want of prosecution relying upon common law principles.
It is expected that the change will free up (already scarce) judicial resources to deal with matters on their merits, and avoid the waste caused by appearances at Status Hearings (especially first appearances, where Timetable Orders are typically granted as a matter of course).
Ironically, by allowing actions to linger longer in the system, they will likely be heard faster and at less expense, as judicial resources consequently become liberated to hear matters on their merits, as opposed to being bogged-down in time consuming, expensive, and counter-productive “show cause” hearings.