Written by: Alfonso Chen
In B.C., there are several bodies that render decisions for legal disputes. If you commence proceedings through a body that does not have jurisdiction over the issue, then you may waste your time and resources. It is crucial to know which body can make an order to resolve your legal dispute. This article explains the fundamental monetary jurisdiction issue to determine whether to commence legal proceedings in B.C. for civil cases in the B.C. Supreme Court, the Small Claims Court of the B.C. Provincial Court, or the Civil Resolution Tribunal (the “CRT”) – there are many exceptions to the contents in this article which are not discussed here and there may be reasons for you not to commence legal proceedings which are also not discussed– you must discuss the contents of this article with a lawyer before relying on any part of this article to determine whether they apply to your particular case. This article is current as of June 4, 2020. All monetary values in this article are expressed in Canadian dollars.
The Courts and the CRT
If your claim is of a value up to $5,000:
Generally, for civil claims up to $5,000, you apply to have the matter resolved through the CRT. You can begin to do so by submitting the truthfully completed Dispute Application Form and fee payment to the CRT. You can obtain a copy of the Dispute Application Form on CRT’s website, which is https://civilresolutionbc.ca/. There may be additional documents or pieces of information that you would need to provide to begin the process. There are also ways to have the matter transferred to the Small Claims Court after a file has been opened with the CRT for your dispute. The CRT has a more informal process than that in the Small Claims Court and the B.C. Supreme Court and makes it possible to have certain disputes resolved without having a formal in-person hearing. A decision might be rendered solely based on the documents sent to the CRT. However, there are restrictions on what lawyers may do for clients involved in CRT cases that do not exist in the Small Claims Court and the B.C. Supreme Court.
If your claim is of a value between $5,000.01 and $35,000:
Generally, for civil claims between $5,000.01 and $35,000, you can have the matter resolved through the Small Claims Court. You can begin to do so by submitting the truthfully completed Notice of Claim and fee payment to the registry of the court “nearest to where (a) the defendant lives or carries on business, or (b) the transaction or event that resulted in the claim took place” as set out in subrule 1(2) of the Small Claims Rules. You can obtain a copy of the Notice of Claim on the Small Claims Court’s website, which is http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/court-forms. The Small Claims Court is a division of the B.C. Provincial Court and may be easier to navigate through than the B.C. Supreme Court.
Generally, as an alternative, you can also choose to claim in the B.C. Supreme Court.
If your claim is of a value above $35,000:
Generally, for civil claims where you claim above $35,000, you can only have the matter resolved through the B.C. Supreme Court. You can generally begin to do so by submitting the truthfully completed Notice of Civil Claim and fee payment to any registry of the Supreme Court. You can obtain a copy of the Notice of Civil Claim on the B.C. Supreme Court’s website, which is https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/justice/courthouse-services/documents-forms-records/court-forms/sup-civil-forms. Some matters are commenced by filing a Petition or a Requisition and associated documents instead. The B.C. Supreme Court has a more formal process than the processes in the Small Claims Court and the CRT. Many litigants choose to retain lawyers for Supreme Court matters due to the complexities in navigating the system.
There are many exceptions:
There are many unmentioned exceptions to the general statements noted above. As such, it is crucial that you see a lawyer to discuss your particular case prior to relying on the contents of this article.
The jurisdictions of the courts and the CRT are important to keep in mind when considering commencing a lawsuit. You should avoid wasting time and resources taking steps that do not produce results. Many of our lawyers frequently handle civil dispute files and would be happy to assist you on your case. We warmly welcome you to call our number at (604) 558-2258 to schedule an initial consultation!
Alfonso Chen is a litigation associate of Henderson & Lee. His practice mainly involves civil litigation and criminal defence matters.