I Am Being Sued — What Should I Expect?
A lawsuit for loss or damages caused to another person or another person's property is known as a civil claim. If you are being sued in a civil claim, you will receive court papers: a Notice of Claim if you are being sued in the Provincial Court's Small Claims Court or a Notice of Civil Claim if you are being sued in BC Supreme Court. Different forms are used in family disputes.
Lawsuits in Small Claims Court are currently limited to claims of up to $25,000, however, on June 1, 2017 this limit will increase to $35,000. Another important change is that as of June 1, 2017, with just a few exceptions, civil claims up to $5,000 will no longer be dealt with in Small Claims Court. Instead claims up to $5,000 will be resolved in BC's new online Civil Resolution Tribunal.
There is no money limit to claims in BC Supreme Court.
Civil Resolution Tribunal
On or after June 1, 2017, if you receive a CRT Dispute Notice and you don't agree with it:
- Complete a Dispute Response Form that should have been provided with the Dispute Notice. This can be done by filling out either a paper copy or the online form which is free. In your Dispute Response, say why you don't agree with the claim(s). If you don't get a blank Dispute Response Form with the Dispute Notice, you can get one from the Civil Resolution Tribunal. Forms are also accessible online from the CRT website.
- Provide the Dispute Response form to the Tribunal and all other parties within the time limit specified on the Dispute Response. There is a cost for filing a hard copy Dispute Response of $25 or if you file online there is no charge.
- You can add your own claims or add another person to the dispute by filling out an Additional Claim Form. It costs $150 to file a paper form or $125 to file online.
What happens next
For the Civil Resolution Tribunal, you will first go through an online process called Facilitation with the help of a Facilitator, who will try to mediate the dispute. If that does not resolve the dispute, you will next go to the Tribunal. Information about these processes is available on the  CRT website.
Small Claims Court
If you receive a Small Claims Court Notice of Claim and you don't agree with it:
- Complete the Reply that should have been served on you with the Notice of Claim. In your Reply, say why you don't agree with the claim. If you don't get a blank Reply with the Notice of Claim, you can get one at any Provincial Court registry. Small Claims forms are also available online from the Ministry of Justice website.
- Drop off the Reply or mail it to the Small Claims registry named on the Notice of Claim within 14 days of receiving the Notice of Claim. There is a cost for filing a Reply is $26 for a claim of up to $3,000 and $50 for a claim over $3,000.
- The Reply form also has a section for making a counterclaim against the claimant. To make a counterclaim you must also have a claim against the claimant suing you. Filing a counterclaim costs extra. It costs $100 to make a counterclaim for $3,000 or less, and $156 for a counterclaim over $3,000.
What happens next
In Small Claims Court, you will receive a Notice of Settlement Conference. A Settlement Conference is an opportunity for you and the claimant to meet with a judge to see if you can agree to resolve the claim. The judge at a settlement conference is only there to help the parties agree on a settlement. He or she cannot impose an agreement on parties who are not able to reach agreement.
If the settlement conference doesn't resolve the case, you will be given a Notice of Trial. At trial, the claimant will present his or her case, and you will be given a chance to question the claimant and their witnesses and to present your own case. The trial judge will then decide who wins.
|Small Claims Court now offers mediation of many kinds of cases. If yours is one of these cases, a trained independent person will meet with you and the other parties in your case to see if you can agree on a way of resolving it. Ask someone at the court registry where you file your documents if there could be mediation in your case.|
If you receive a Supreme Court Notice of Civil Claim:
- Obtain and complete a Response to Civil Claim' form. Supreme Court forms are available online through the Clicklaw website "Laws, Cases & Rules" page; click on "BC Supreme Court Civil Forms." You are looking for Form 2.
- Drop off the Response to Civil Claim at (or fax or mail it to) the Supreme Court registry named on the Notice to Civil Claim, within 21 days of when you were served with the Notice of Civil Claim. It will cost $25 to file a Response to Civil Claim.
- If you have a claim to make against the person suing you (and others), you can file a Counterclaim form. This must be done in the same time for filing your Response to Civil Claim. The Counterclaim form is also available online. You are looking for Form 3.
What happens next
In Supreme Court, the process is more complex than in Small Claims Court. During the next stage of a Supreme Court proceeding, known as discovery, the parties exchange documents and may cross-examine each other outside of court. Finally, if the case is not resolved, it will proceed to trial.
In Supreme Court the parties are responsible for scheduling steps in the proceeding themselves, including examinations for discovery, pre-trial procedures such as a case management conference and a trial management conference, as well as the trial.
Where to get help
See the Resource List in this Guide for a list of helpful resources. Your best bets are:
- Civil Resolution Tribunal Website.
- Supreme Court Guidebooks for Representing Yourself as a self-represented litigant.
- Small Claims Court Online Help Guides.
- Small Claims Court website for information on Small Claims procedures and representing yourself in Small Claims Court.
- Clicklaw's "Court Forms & Guides" page, which features a flow chart to find the court rules, forms and self-help guides needed when going to court.
- Access Pro Bono, Lawyer Referral Service, and private bar lawyers.
- Clicklaw common question "I'm being sued in small claims court" for further resources.
Before meeting with a lawyer or advocate, complete the form Preparing for Your Interview included in this Guide. Make sure you bring copies of all documents relating to your case.
|This information applies to British Columbia, Canada. Last reviewed for legal accuracy by John Bilawich, April 2017.|
|Legal Help for British Columbians © Cliff Thorstenson and Courthouse Libraries BC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Canada Licence.|
An award of money payable by one party to a court proceeding to another, usually as compensation for loss or harm suffered as a result of the other party’s actions or omissions. In family law, damages are usually awarded to one party in compensation for breach of contract or spousal abuse. See "breach of contract" and "tort."
Something which can be owned. See "chattels" and "real property."
The assertion of a legal right to an order or to a thing; the remedy or relief sought by a party to a court proceeding.
A court established and staffed by the provincial government, which includes Small Claims Court, Youth Court, and Family Court. The Provincial Court is the lowest level of court in British Columbia and is restricted in the sorts of matters it can deal with. It is, however, the most accessible of the two trial courts and no fees are charged to begin or defend a family court proceeding. The Family Court of the Provincial Court cannot deal with the division of family property or matters under the Divorce Act. See "judge" and "jurisdiction."
Normally referred to as the "Supreme Court of British Columbia," this court hears most court proceedings in this province. The Supreme Court is a court of inherent jurisdiction and is subject to no limits on the sorts of claims it can hear or on the sorts of orders it can make. Decisions of the Provincial Court are appealed to the Supreme Court; decisions of the Supreme Court are appealed to the Court of Appeal. See "Court of Appeal," "jurisdiction," "Provincial Court," and "Supreme Court of Canada."
A calculation of the allowable legal expenses of a party to a court proceeding, as determined by the Supreme Court Family Rules. The party who is most successful in a court proceeding is usually awarded their "costs" of the proceeding. See "account, "bill of costs," "certificate of costs," and "lawyer's fees."
A legal document required by the Provincial Court Family Rules to respond to a claim made in an applicant's Application to Obtain an Order. See "applicant," "Application to Obtain an Order," "claim," and "Counterclaim."
A central office, located in each judicial district, at which the court files for each court proceeding in that district are maintained, and at which legal documents can be filed, searched, and reviewed; a courthouse.
The person who starts a court proceeding seeking an order for a specific remedy or relief against another person, the respondent. See "action" and "respondent."
A person appointed by the federal or provincial government to manage and decide court proceedings in an impartial manner, independent of influence by the parties, the government, or agents of the government. The decisions of a judge are binding upon the parties to the proceeding, subject to appeal.
A resolution of one or more issues in a court proceeding or legal dispute with the agreement of the parties to the proceeding or dispute, usually recorded in a written agreement or in an order that all parties agree the court should make. A court proceeding can be settled at any time before the conclusion of trial. See "action," "consent order," "family law agreements," and "offer."
In law, a court proceeding; a lawsuit; an action; a cause of action; a claim. Also the historic decisions of the court. See "action," "case law, " "court proceeding," and "precedent."
The testing of the claims at issue in a court proceeding at a formal hearing before a judge with the jurisdiction to hear the proceeding. The parties present their evidence and arguments to the judge, who then makes a determination of the parties' claims against one another that is final and binding on the parties unless appealed. See "action," "appeal," "argument," "claim," "evidence," and "jurisdiction."
A dispute resolution process in which a specially-trained neutral person facilitates discussions between the parties to a legal dispute and helps them reach a compromise settling the dispute. See "alternative dispute resolution" and "family law mediator."
A central office, located in each judicial district, at which the court files for each court proceeding in that district are maintained, and at which legal documents can be filed, searched, and reviewed.
A legal document required by the Supreme Court Family Rules in which a respondent sets out a claim for a specific remedy or relief against a claimant. See "Notice of Family Claim" and "Response to Family Claim."
In law, the whole of the conduct of a court proceeding, from beginning to end, and the steps in between; may also be used to refer to a specific hearing or trial. See "action."
A step in a court proceeding in which a party may demand that the other party produce specific documents and submit to a cross-examination on oath or affirmation outside of court before trial. This process is regulated by the rules of court. The purpose of this step is to encourage the settlement of court proceedings and to make sure that each party knows what the other party's case will be at trial. See "examination for discovery."
A party to a court proceeding who is not represented by a lawyer and acts on their own behalf; a lay litigant, a pro se litigant. See "action," "lawyer," and "litigant."
A person licensed to practice law in a particular jurisdiction. See "barrister and solicitor."
A lawyer or a person other than a lawyer who helps clients with legal issues; to argue a position on behalf of a client.