Here’s what your lawyer will recommend if you’re involved in a civil dispute.
Updated: Jun 10
Written by: Vicki Xu (Articled Student) and Alfonso Chen
This article introduces a few potential options that a B.C. lawyer you consult with may set out for you with regards to resolving a civil dispute. Due to the necessity of having the circumstances of each particular case canvassed by a lawyer in order to define the appropriate issues, laws, and options, and due to there being changes in the law over time, you must not rely on the contents of this article unless your lawyer has approved its applicability and determined that the law is still current. This article is unable to replace legal advice regarding your particular case. The value in reviewing this article is that you may find options that you have not considered before, which you may consider before meeting with the lawyer you consult with and raise with the lawyer.
Availability and Suitability of Options The options available or suitable to you depend on the facts of each case. Some options are available or suitable only for particular matters. For example, the Small Claims Court, which is part of the Provincial Court of British Columbia, does not deal with the following matters:
certain tenancy matters;
cases involving title to land;
enforcing foreign judgments;
claims on a deceased’s estate;
recovery of personal property under the Personal Property Security Act;
certain strata property claims;
most builders’ liens issues;
many employment issues;
trademark claims; and
cases seeking an injunction.
For example, if you wish to seek legal remedy after someone passes absolutely false information to your employer stating that you drink so much alcohol that your inebriated state prevents you from working competently, then the court that you should consider commencing legal action in is the Supreme Court. This is because defamation, thetort involved in this case, cannot be brought in the Small Claims Court (see ii above). On the other hand, a $30,000 claim for breach of a contract is one that, in many cases, should be brought in the Small Claims Court.
Options Below is a non-exhaustive list of options that may be available to you when faced with a civil dispute: 1) do nothing; 2) wait and see; 3) litigate in the small claims court; 4) litigate in the supreme court; 5) report to the appropriate regulatory authority; 6) report to the police; 7) negotiate; 8) mediate; and/or 9) see a lawyer licensed in the appropriate jurisdiction.
You may proceed with several options simultaneously or in succession or both. For example, you may wish to begin litigation in the Small Claims Court because the limitation period would soon expire. Simultaneously, you may wish to negotiate with the opposing party, who is the party you have the legal dispute with, to attempt to resolve the dispute outside of court by reaching a settlement, despite having started litigation.
Option 1: Do Nothing Doing nothing means that you take no further action with regards to the dispute, regardless of what happens. Rarely is this beneficial. There are many significant potential drawbacks, which vary based on the circumstances of the involved case.
Option 2: Wait and See Waiting and seeing means that you take no action with regards to the dispute until something happens, at which point you could reassess your legal position based on the new circumstances and act accordingly.
Option 3: Litigate in the Small Claims Court Litigating in the Small Claims Court means that you sue in the Small Claims Court. The maximum amount you can claim is the amount set by the regulations, which is $35,000 as of August of 2020. You may waive additional amounts above $35,000 to sue in the Small Claims Court. For example, if you are suing because a person owes you $36,000 and did not pay you back in accordance with your agreement with that person, then, if your lawyer determines that litigating in the Small Claims Court is suitable, you may wai