Settlement Conference in Civil Cases

The parties involved in a civil case have the opportunity, and sometimes the obligation, to participate in a settlement conference presided over by a judge of the Court of Québec.

What is a settlement conference?

A settlement conference is a dispute resolution mechanism that allows the parties involved in a civil case to resolve their dispute in an informal setting without going through a trial, thereby saving time and money.

Who can request a settlement conference?

For legal proceedings instituted before June 30, 2023, a settlement conference is a voluntary process. All parties to the dispute must give their consent before the conference can take place.

In this case, the parties or their lawyers, if any, must complete the form entitled Joint Request for a Settlement Conference in a Civil Case, available on the Court of Québec website in the Settlement Conference in Civil Cases section. It must be signed by the parties and their lawyers and sent to the clerk’s office of the Civil Division of the Court of Québec at the courthouse concerned.

Joint Request for a Settlement Conference in a Civil Case (January 12, 2022)

The coordinating judge or the designated judge will then invite the parties and their lawyers to appear before the judge designated to preside over the conference. Generally speaking, the settlement conference is held within 60 days of the date the signed form is received.

For legal proceedings instituted on or after June 30, 2023, the Code of Civil Procedure prescribes the circumstances in which a settlement conference may be ordered by the Tribunal. In such cases, it is not necessary to complete the above form. The clerk will then convene the parties and their attorneys, where applicable, in accordance with the rules governing the handling of files in the judicial district concerned.

How does a settlement conference work?

The settlement conference is presided over by a judge of the Civil Division of the Court of Québec. It takes place in a room other than a courtroom and features flexible rules designed to facilitate resolution of the dispute. It can also take place in virtual mode.

The parties are present and are usually assisted by their attorneys. The presiding judge, the parties, and their attorneys undertake to respect the confidentiality of any information disclosed during the conference.

How much does this service cost?

The service is provided free-of-charge. However, parties who are not eligible for legal aid must agree with their attorneys on the latter’s fees.

What happens if the parties agree and resolve their dispute?

If the settlement conference leads to a solution to the dispute, an agreement is drawn up and signed by the parties and their attorneys, if any. It can also be submitted to a judge for signature to render it legally enforceable as a Court judgement.

What happens if the parties do not agree?

If the settlement conference does not enable the parties to resolve their dispute, the presiding judge may transform it into a case management conference leading to a formal trial presided over by another judge, who will issue a ruling regarding the case.