The latin expression “ad litem” pronounced “ad light um” means “for this suit” or “for the purposes of this lawsuit”.
Generally, the expression is used in connection with the term “guardian”, so that the term appears as “guardian ad litem”.
In a lawsuit, there are various parties, being plaintiffs, defendants, applicants, appellants and respondents. However, not every party is able to conduct the lawsuit themselves. Consider those persons who are under some kind of mental disability or those who have yet to reach the age of majority. In these circumstances, a guardian is required to effectively take carriage of the proceedings.
So, someone who requires assistance will have a guardian just for the purposes of the lawsuit. This person need not be the individual’s guardian for other purposes, just the lawsuit.
This is the person who will testify on an examination, testify in Court, direct the lawsuit and be responsible for the costs of the legal proceedings.
Very often, the guardian will be the parent of a child under the age of majority or the parent of a mentally challenged adult. It will be the parent who funds the action or the claim.
In the case of a child who is sued as a defendant, the insurance company will nominate the guardian ad litem. Ordinarily, in this circumstance it will be a lawyer selected by the insurance company. Another lawyer will handle the actual defence of the claim. You will appreciate that with the insurer’s money at risk, it is not the child’s parent who falls into this role.
In some jurisdictions, the office of the government agency responsible for children or mentally challenged adults will be the “Office of the Guardian Ad Litem”. In Ontario, that office is known as the “Public Guardian and Trustee”. Formerly, this office was known as the “Official Guardian”. That office is one which is charged with the responsibility to oversee the rights of children and mentally challenged adults. In cases where there is already a “guardian ad litem”, then that role is usually not required.
Brian Madigan LL.B., Broker