Difference between revisions of "Starting a Lawsuit (No. 165)"

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{{Dial-A-Law TOC|expanded = smallclaims}}
 
{{Dial-A-Law TOC|expanded = smallclaims}}
==What is Small Claims Court?==
+
==What is small claims court?==
If you’re suing someone for $25,000 or less, [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/ Small Claims Court] is for you. Small Claims Court is meant for ordinary people to handle their cases with or without a lawyer. The [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/court-forms court forms] include directions about how to make a claim and have it heard by a judge. The [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/court-processes processes] are less formal and simpler than in Supreme Court.  
+
Small claims court is for ordinary people who want to handle their cases with or without a lawyer. The [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/small-claims-court-5001-35000/court-process-overview process] is simpler and less formal than in BC supreme court.  
  
==What is the dollar limit for Small Claims Court?==
+
==Before you sue—try to settle the case==
Small Claims Court takes cases only if the value of the claim, not including interest and court costs, is $25,000 or less. If your claim is for more than $25,000, you can still sue in Small Claims Court if you give up the extra amount. For example, if someone owes you $27,000, you can sue for $25,000 in Small Claims Court, but you must give up the other $2,000 of your claim. You may get interest and court costs on top of the $25,000 claim limit. What interest rate applies can be confusing, depending on the type of claim. If it is not clear to you how to calculate interest, you should see a lawyer or talk to the staff at the nearest small claims court registry.
+
This script explains how to sue in small claims court. But before you sue, try to settle the case without going to court. That can save you a lot of time and money. The [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/ small claims website] starts with this suggestion and explains [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/settlement-options/overview settlement options]. They include using demand letters, [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/settlement-options/ODR online dispute resolution], [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/settlement-options/mediation mediation], arbitration, collection agencies, negotiation, and payment terms.  
  
Once your case has been tried in Small Claims Court, you cannot later sue for the part of the claim you gave up. But if you decide—after you sue in Small Claims Court, but before your case has been tried—that you want to sue for the full amount, you can apply to have your claim transferred to Supreme Court. Then you can sue for the entire amount. It’s also possible to claim legal costs if your claim is transferred to Supreme Court and you get a judgment over $25,000.
+
==New process for small claims started June 1, 2017==
 +
Starting June 1, 2017, the government made [http://provincialcourt.bc.ca/enews/enews-20-03-2017 important changes to small claims court]. Now, where you sue depends on the amount you seek:
 +
*Claims up to $5,000 go to the [https://civilresolutionbc.ca/how-the-crt-works/getting-started/small-claims-solution-explorer/ Civil Resolution Tribunal]
 +
*Claims from $5,001 to $35,000 go to small claims court—'''this script covers this topic'''
 +
*Claims over $35,000 go to [http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/supreme_court/ BC supreme court]. More information on these claims is also available on [http://www.supremecourtbc.ca/civil the site for people who represent themselves] in supreme court.
  
==What types of claims can be tried in Small Claims Court?==
+
==What are the dollar limits for small claims court?==
 +
Small claims court takes cases only if the value of the claim is between $5001 and $35,000, not including interest and court costs. If your claim is for more than $35,000, you can still sue in small claims court if you give up the extra amount. For example, if someone owes you $37,000, you can sue for $35,000 in small claims court, but you must give up the other $2,000 of your claim.
 +
 
 +
You may get interest and court costs on top of the $35,000 limit. What interest rate applies can be confusing, depending on the type of claim. If it is not clear to you how to calculate interest, you should see a lawyer or talk to the staff at the nearest small claims court registry.
 +
 
 +
Once your case has been tried in small claims court, you cannot later sue for the part of the claim you gave up. But if you decide before the trial that you want to sue for the full amount, you can apply to transfer your claim to supreme court. Then you can sue for the entire amount. You can also claim legal costs if your claim is transferred to supreme court and you get a judgment over $35,000. But on the other hand, if you get less than $35,000 in supreme court, you may not get legal costs because you should have sued in small claims court.
 +
 
 +
==What types of claims go to small claims court?==
 
There are two main types of claims:
 
There are two main types of claims:
 +
*for '''debts'''—this is usually a specific amount someone owes you for goods or services
 +
*for '''damages'''—this is money paid to you for a loss you’ve suffered. It could be for an injury you’ve suffered, or for loss or damage to your personal property, or for some other financial loss such as when someone breaks a contract with you.
  
*for debts—this is usually a specific amount someone owes you for goods or services
+
==Other cases that can go to small claims court==
*for damages—this is money paid to you for a loss you’ve suffered. It could be for an injury you’ve suffered, or for loss or damage to your personal property, or for some other financial loss such as when someone breaks a contract with you. Unlike with debt, the amount of damages is not usually a specific amount; instead, it is assessed by the court.
+
Small claims court also hears other less common cases. For example, you can sue to get back personal property (not land) wrongfully taken from you. Or you can sue for an order that someone complete a contract—to do what they agreed to do. Small claims court can also deal with claims that the Civil Resolution Tribunal will not deal with for some reason. For example, a case may be too complex or beyond the Tribunal’s jurisdiction (or authority). Or a party may have applied to provincial court to be exempt from the Tribunal.
  
==Other cases that can go to Small Claims Court==
+
==What claims cannot go to small claims court?==
Small Claims Court also hears other less common cases. For example, you can sue to get back personal property wrongfully taken from you. Or you might want to sue to cancel a contract. Or perhaps someone hasn’t done something they agreed to do, and you want the court to order them to do it.
+
You can’t sue in small claims court for defamation (libel, slander—see script [[Defamation: Libel and Slander (Script 240) | 240]]) or malicious prosecution. You also can’t sue over ownership of land, and you can’t sue the federal government in small claims court. Further, most residential tenancy claims, some claims concerning the estate of someone who has died, and most builders lien actions can’t go to small claims court. And usually, you cannot sue in small claims court for an injunction (to order someone stop doing something). The [http://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/types-of-cases/small-claims-matters provincial court website] explains what types of cases small claims will—and will not—deal with.
  
==What claims can Small Claims Court not hear?==
+
==What is a limitation period?==
You can’t sue in Small Claims Court for defamation (libel, slander—see script [[Defamation: Libel and Slander (Script 240) | 240]]) or malicious prosecution. You also can’t sue over ownership of land, and you can’t sue the federal or provincial government in Small Claims Court. Further, most residential tenancy claims, some claims concerning the estate of someone who has died, and most builders lien actions can’t go to Small Claims Court.
+
Limitation periods set deadlines for starting to sue someone. Different limitation periods apply to different types of claims. On June 1, 2013, a new ''[http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/12013_01 Limitation Act]'' became law in British Columbia. Most claims now have a [http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/12013_01#section6 2-year basic limitation period]. In other words, if the '''cause of action''' (the event you’re suing about) happened on or after June 1, 2013, the new Limitation Act applies, and you will have 2 years from the day you [http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/12013_01#section8 discovered] (knew, or reasonably ought to have known) all the following:
 +
*injury, loss or damage occurred
 +
*it was caused at least partly by an act or omission
 +
*the act or omission was that of the person you’re suing
 +
*court is the right place to seek a remedy
  
==What is the limitation period?==
+
For example, you took your car for repairs but when you got it back you saw that the shop damaged it. The limitation period starts when you realized these things, or when you reasonably ought to have realized them.
Limitation periods set deadlines for starting to sue someone. Different limitation periods apply to different types of claims. On June 1, 2013, a new ''Limitation Act'' became law in British Columbia. Most claims now have a 2-year basic limitation period. In other words, if the cause of action (the event you’re suing about) happened on or after June 1, 2013, the new ''Limitation Act'' will apply, and you will have 2 years from the day you discover that you can sue to start a claim.
 
  
 
If a cause of action happened before June 1, 2013, the old ''Limitation Act'' applies. Under it, the claim must be started within 6 years from the time the debt arose, or within 6 years from when the debtor last acknowledged the debt.
 
If a cause of action happened before June 1, 2013, the old ''Limitation Act'' applies. Under it, the claim must be started within 6 years from the time the debt arose, or within 6 years from when the debtor last acknowledged the debt.
 +
 +
The limitation period for suing municipal government is shorter: only 6 months.
  
 
If you don’t know what limitation period applies in your case, see a lawyer. If your limitation period expires before you sue, that may be the end of it. It’s best to start your lawsuit as soon as it’s clear that the person or company can’t or won’t pay you what they owe. Don’t delay.
 
If you don’t know what limitation period applies in your case, see a lawyer. If your limitation period expires before you sue, that may be the end of it. It’s best to start your lawsuit as soon as it’s clear that the person or company can’t or won’t pay you what they owe. Don’t delay.
  
 
==Where do you sue, or file your notice of claim?==
 
==Where do you sue, or file your notice of claim?==
You have a choice. You can file a notice of claim (to start your lawsuit) in the Small Claims Court registry that is either nearest to:
+
You have a choice. You can file a notice of claim (to start your lawsuit) in the small claims court registry that is either nearest to where:
 
+
*the person you are suing lives or has a business, or  
*where the person you are suing lives or has a business, or  
+
*the event you’re suing about happened.  
*where the event you’re suing about happened.  
 
  
 
For example, say you want to sue a driver for injuries from a car accident. He lives in Surrey, but the accident took place in Vancouver. You can sue in either Surrey or Vancouver.
 
For example, say you want to sue a driver for injuries from a car accident. He lives in Surrey, but the accident took place in Vancouver. You can sue in either Surrey or Vancouver.
  
 
==Where will your case be tried?==
 
==Where will your case be tried?==
There is a Small Claims Court in all major cities and most smaller towns in British Columbia. The BC Ministry of Justice lists [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/overview/locations/index.htm court locations]. So does the [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/court-locations Small Claims Court website]. Or you can ask Inquiry BC for court locations; call it 604.660.2421 in Vancouver, 250.387.6121 in Victoria or 1.800.663.7867 elsewhere in BC.
+
A case will be tried in the court where the notice of claim was filed. There is a small claims court in all major cities and most smaller towns in British Columbia. They are listed on the [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/court-locations small claims website]. Or you can ask Inquiry BC for court locations; call it 604.660.2421 in Vancouver, 250.387.6121 in Victoria or 1.800.663.7867 elsewhere in BC.
 +
 
 +
==Telling the other side that you are suing—serving the notice of claim==
 +
You, as the person suing, are the '''claimant'''. You must inform the person or company you are suing (the '''defendant''') that you are suing them. That’s called serving them with your notice of claim. And you must do that within one year of filing your claim. The notice of claim form is on the [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/court-forms court forms website].
 +
 
 +
'''If the defendant lives in BC''', you can serve the notice of claim (after you have filed it in court) by giving the defendant a copy of it, and a blank reply form (available from the registry and on the [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/court-forms court forms website]).
 +
 
 +
'''If the defendant lives outside of BC''', but the event that led to the lawsuit happened in BC, you can serve your notice by giving the defendant a copy of it. But in any other case, you need permission of the court registrar before you can serve a notice of claim outside BC.
 +
 
 +
'''If the defendant is a person over 18 years old''', you can serve your notice of claim by giving it to them in person (called '''personal service''') or sending it to their home by registered mail.
 +
 
 +
'''If the defendant is a corporation''', you can serve the notice by sending it to the corporation’s registered office by registered mail. The address of the registered office is shown on the company search you must do. For '''partnerships''', you must serve one of the partners. For '''unincorporated businesses''', you must serve the owner.
  
==Telling the other side that you are suing—serving your notice of claim==
+
After you serve the notice of claim, you must prove it by completing a '''certificate of service''' (Form 4).
You have to inform the person you are suing (the defendant) that you are suing them. That’s called serving them with your notice of claim. And you must do that within one year of filing your claim. If the defendant lives in BC, you can serve the notice of claim (after you have filed it in court) by giving the defendant a copy of it, and a blank Reply form (available from the registry). The ways to serve a defendant depend on who the defendant is. For example, if the defendant is a person over 18 years old, you can serve your notice of claim by giving it to them in person (called personal service) or sending it to their home by registered mail.  
 
  
If the defendant lives outside of BC, but the event that led to the lawsuit happened in BC, you can serve your notice of claim in the ordinary way as already explained. In any other case, you need permission of the court registrar before you can serve a notice of claim outside BC.  
+
Both the BC [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/serving.htm Ministry of Justice] and the [http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/261_93_00 small claims rules] explain how to serve documents and prove you served them. The small claims website has a [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/sites/default/files/pdf/serving-documents-checklist.pdf checklist for serving documents], and the Law Centre at the University of Victoria has a [http://thelawcentre.ca/self_help/small_claims_factsheets/fact_06 factsheet].
  
The BC [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/serving.htm Ministry of Justice] has more on serving documents.
+
==How much does it cost to go to small claims court?==
 +
Because you can go to court yourself and handle your own small claims court trial, you don’t have to pay legal fees to a lawyer. But you must pay various small charges to file your claim, deliver documents to the defendant, and so on.
  
==How much does it cost to go to Small Claims Court?==  
+
==If your case goes to trial==
Because you can go to court yourself and handle your own Small Claims Court trial, you don’t have to pay any legal fees to a lawyer. But you must pay various small charges to file your claim, deliver documents to the defendant, and so on. For example, the Small Claims Court fee to start a claim is $100 for claims up to $3,000 and $156 for claims over $3,000. Overall, the procedures are simple and relatively inexpensive.  
+
Your case may settle before trial. But if not, check script [[Going to Trial in Small Claims Court (Script 168)|168) called “Going to Trial in Small Claims Court”.
  
==Can you appeal a Small Claims Court judgment?==
+
==Can you appeal a small claims court judgment?==
You can appeal a Small Claims Court judgment to the Supreme Court, but the appeal must be started within 40 days after the Small Claims Court order was made. If you are late filing the notice of appeal, you can apply to the Supreme Court to extend the time, but there’s no guarantee that you will get it.
+
Yes, you can appeal a small claims court judgment to the BC supreme court, but the appeal must be started within 40 days after the small claims court order was made. If you are late filing the notice of appeal, you can apply to the supreme court to extend the time, but there’s no guarantee that you will get it.
  
The appeal is not a new trial and the Supreme Court judge will decide only if the Small Claims Court judge made an error in law. An order of the Supreme Court cannot be appealed.
+
The appeal is not a new trial and the supreme court judge will decide only if the small claims court judge made a mistake about the facts or the law.
  
If you want to appeal a Small Claims Court judgment, you should probably consult a lawyer right away.
+
The small claims website explains [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/judgment/appealing-a-small-claims-decision how to appeal] and the process and cost involved.
 +
 
 +
If you want to appeal a small claims court judgment, you should consult a lawyer right away.
  
 
==Mediation—another option==
 
==Mediation—another option==
You may be able to use mediation (with a mediator) at certain courthouses, instead of suing in a court, before a judge. The [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/mediation_up.htm Court Mediation Program website] explains the program for claims up to $10,000. A [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/mediation_between.htm different process] is available for claims between $10,000 and $25,000.  
+
You may be able to use [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/settlement-options/mediation mediation] for claims between $10,000 and $35,000, instead of suing in court. A neutral third-party tries to help both sides settle the dispute. It’s often faster and cheaper than suing. Small claims [http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/261_93_02#rule7.3 rule 7.3] deals with mediation. The mediation process is also explained on this BC government [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/mediation_between.htm website].
 +
 
 +
Mediation is an option in all locations, but it’s not always available. For example, it’s not available for cases that can be dealt with under rule [http://www.bclaws.ca/civix/document/id/complete/statreg/261_93_02#rule9.2 9.2] (a summary trial for financial debt in Vancouver).
 +
 
 +
Mediation is mandatory only if one party files a notice to mediate or the court orders the parties to use it.
  
 
==Summary==
 
==Summary==
You can sue in Small Claims Court if your claim is for $25,000 or less, though some types of claims aren’t allowed. Typical claims that go to Small Claims Court are for money owed or for damages for personal injury, property loss or breaking a contract. Depending on the claim, there are different deadlines for making a claim, so if you want to sue, you should start as soon as possible.  
+
You can sue in small claims court if your claim is between $5,001 and $35,000, though some types of claims aren’t allowed. Typical claims that go to small claims court are for money owed or for damages for personal injury, property loss or breaking a contract. If you want to sue, you should start as soon as possible because there are various deadlines, depending on the type of claim.  
  
 
==More information==
 
==More information==
 +
*Before you sue, get advice from a lawyer or talk to the small claims court staff for help with procedures.
  
*Before you start your claim, you may want to get some advice from a lawyer or talk to the Small Claims Court staff for help with procedures.
+
*Check the [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/ small claims website] and the [http://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/types-of-cases/small-claims-matters provincial court website]. Also, the BC government has guides on [http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/justice/courthouse-services/small-claims/how-to-guides/making-a-claim making a claim], [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/reply.htm replying to a claim], [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/serving.htm serving documents], [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/getting_ready.htm getting ready for court], and [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/getting_results.htm getting results].
 
+
*Check the other Dial-A-Law scripts in this [http://cbabc.org/For-the-Public/Dial-A-Law/Scripts/Small-Claims-Court small claims court series].  
*Check the [http://www.smallclaimsbc.ca/ Small Claims Court website], the [http://www.provincialcourt.bc.ca/types-of-cases/small-claims-matters Provincial Court website], and the [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/ Ministry of Justice website]. It has guides on [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/making_a_claim.htm making a claim], [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/reply.htm replying to a claim], [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/serving.htm serving documents], [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/getting_ready.htm getting ready for court], [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/getting_results.htm getting results], and [http://www.ag.gov.bc.ca/courts/small_claims/info/guides/mediation_up.htm mediation].
 
  
*Check the other Dial-A-Law scripts in this [http://www.cbabc.org/For-the-Public/Dial-A-Law/Scripts/Small-Claims-Court Small Claims Court series].
 
  
  
[updated November 2016]
+
[updated August 2017]
  
 
'''The above was last reviewed for accuracy by Anna Kurt and edited by John Blois.'''
 
'''The above was last reviewed for accuracy by Anna Kurt and edited by John Blois.'''

Revision as of 16:08, 17 August 2017

What is small claims court?

Small claims court is for ordinary people who want to handle their cases with or without a lawyer. The process is simpler and less formal than in BC supreme court.

Before you sue—try to settle the case

This script explains how to sue in small claims court. But before you sue, try to settle the case without going to court. That can save you a lot of time and money. The small claims website starts with this suggestion and explains settlement options. They include using demand letters, online dispute resolution, mediation, arbitration, collection agencies, negotiation, and payment terms.

New process for small claims started June 1, 2017

Starting June 1, 2017, the government made important changes to small claims court. Now, where you sue depends on the amount you seek:

What are the dollar limits for small claims court?

Small claims court takes cases only if the value of the claim is between $5001 and $35,000, not including interest and court costs. If your claim is for more than $35,000, you can still sue in small claims court if you give up the extra amount. For example, if someone owes you $37,000, you can sue for $35,000 in small claims court, but you must give up the other $2,000 of your claim.

You may get interest and court costs on top of the $35,000 limit. What interest rate applies can be confusing, depending on the type of claim. If it is not clear to you how to calculate interest, you should see a lawyer or talk to the staff at the nearest small claims court registry.

Once your case has been tried in small claims court, you cannot later sue for the part of the claim you gave up. But if you decide before the trial that you want to sue for the full amount, you can apply to transfer your claim to supreme court. Then you can sue for the entire amount. You can also claim legal costs if your claim is transferred to supreme court and you get a judgment over $35,000. But on the other hand, if you get less than $35,000 in supreme court, you may not get legal costs because you should have sued in small claims court.

What types of claims go to small claims court?

There are two main types of claims:

  • for debts—this is usually a specific amount someone owes you for goods or services
  • for damages—this is money paid to you for a loss you’ve suffered. It could be for an injury you’ve suffered, or for loss or damage to your personal property, or for some other financial loss such as when someone breaks a contract with you.

Other cases that can go to small claims court

Small claims court also hears other less common cases. For example, you can sue to get back personal property (not land) wrongfully taken from you. Or you can sue for an order that someone complete a contract—to do what they agreed to do. Small claims court can also deal with claims that the Civil Resolution Tribunal will not deal with for some reason. For example, a case may be too complex or beyond the Tribunal’s jurisdiction (or authority). Or a party may have applied to provincial court to be exempt from the Tribunal.

What claims cannot go to small claims court?

You can’t sue in small claims court for defamation (libel, slander—see script 240) or malicious prosecution. You also can’t sue over ownership of land, and you can’t sue the federal government in small claims court. Further, most residential tenancy claims, some claims concerning the estate of someone who has died, and most builders lien actions can’t go to small claims court. And usually, you cannot sue in small claims court for an injunction (to order someone stop doing something). The provincial court website explains what types of cases small claims will—and will not—deal with.

What is a limitation period?

Limitation periods set deadlines for starting to sue someone. Different limitation periods apply to different types of claims. On June 1, 2013, a new Limitation Act became law in British Columbia. Most claims now have a 2-year basic limitation period. In other words, if the cause of action (the event you’re suing about) happened on or after June 1, 2013, the new Limitation Act applies, and you will have 2 years from the day you discovered (knew, or reasonably ought to have known) all the following:

  • injury, loss or damage occurred
  • it was caused at least partly by an act or omission
  • the act or omission was that of the person you’re suing
  • court is the right place to seek a remedy

For example, you took your car for repairs but when you got it back you saw that the shop damaged it. The limitation period starts when you realized these things, or when you reasonably ought to have realized them.

If a cause of action happened before June 1, 2013, the old Limitation Act applies. Under it, the claim must be started within 6 years from the time the debt arose, or within 6 years from when the debtor last acknowledged the debt.

The limitation period for suing municipal government is shorter: only 6 months.

If you don’t know what limitation period applies in your case, see a lawyer. If your limitation period expires before you sue, that may be the end of it. It’s best to start your lawsuit as soon as it’s clear that the person or company can’t or won’t pay you what they owe. Don’t delay.

Where do you sue, or file your notice of claim?

You have a choice. You can file a notice of claim (to start your lawsuit) in the small claims court registry that is either nearest to where:

  • the person you are suing lives or has a business, or
  • the event you’re suing about happened.

For example, say you want to sue a driver for injuries from a car accident. He lives in Surrey, but the accident took place in Vancouver. You can sue in either Surrey or Vancouver.

Where will your case be tried?

A case will be tried in the court where the notice of claim was filed. There is a small claims court in all major cities and most smaller towns in British Columbia. They are listed on the small claims website. Or you can ask Inquiry BC for court locations; call it 604.660.2421 in Vancouver, 250.387.6121 in Victoria or 1.800.663.7867 elsewhere in BC.

Telling the other side that you are suing—serving the notice of claim

You, as the person suing, are the claimant. You must inform the person or company you are suing (the defendant) that you are suing them. That’s called serving them with your notice of claim. And you must do that within one year of filing your claim. The notice of claim form is on the court forms website.

If the defendant lives in BC, you can serve the notice of claim (after you have filed it in court) by giving the defendant a copy of it, and a blank reply form (available from the registry and on the court forms website).

If the defendant lives outside of BC, but the event that led to the lawsuit happened in BC, you can serve your notice by giving the defendant a copy of it. But in any other case, you need permission of the court registrar before you can serve a notice of claim outside BC.

If the defendant is a person over 18 years old, you can serve your notice of claim by giving it to them in person (called personal service) or sending it to their home by registered mail.

If the defendant is a corporation, you can serve the notice by sending it to the corporation’s registered office by registered mail. The address of the registered office is shown on the company search you must do. For partnerships, you must serve one of the partners. For unincorporated businesses, you must serve the owner.

After you serve the notice of claim, you must prove it by completing a certificate of service (Form 4).

Both the BC Ministry of Justice and the small claims rules explain how to serve documents and prove you served them. The small claims website has a checklist for serving documents, and the Law Centre at the University of Victoria has a factsheet.

How much does it cost to go to small claims court?

Because you can go to court yourself and handle your own small claims court trial, you don’t have to pay legal fees to a lawyer. But you must pay various small charges to file your claim, deliver documents to the defendant, and so on.

If your case goes to trial

Your case may settle before trial. But if not, check script [[Going to Trial in Small Claims Court (Script 168)|168) called “Going to Trial in Small Claims Court”.

Can you appeal a small claims court judgment?

Yes, you can appeal a small claims court judgment to the BC supreme court, but the appeal must be started within 40 days after the small claims court order was made. If you are late filing the notice of appeal, you can apply to the supreme court to extend the time, but there’s no guarantee that you will get it.

The appeal is not a new trial and the supreme court judge will decide only if the small claims court judge made a mistake about the facts or the law.

The small claims website explains how to appeal and the process and cost involved.

If you want to appeal a small claims court judgment, you should consult a lawyer right away.

Mediation—another option

You may be able to use mediation for claims between $10,000 and $35,000, instead of suing in court. A neutral third-party tries to help both sides settle the dispute. It’s often faster and cheaper than suing. Small claims rule 7.3 deals with mediation. The mediation process is also explained on this BC government website.

Mediation is an option in all locations, but it’s not always available. For example, it’s not available for cases that can be dealt with under rule 9.2 (a summary trial for financial debt in Vancouver).

Mediation is mandatory only if one party files a notice to mediate or the court orders the parties to use it.

Summary

You can sue in small claims court if your claim is between $5,001 and $35,000, though some types of claims aren’t allowed. Typical claims that go to small claims court are for money owed or for damages for personal injury, property loss or breaking a contract. If you want to sue, you should start as soon as possible because there are various deadlines, depending on the type of claim.

More information

  • Before you sue, get advice from a lawyer or talk to the small claims court staff for help with procedures.


[updated August 2017]

The above was last reviewed for accuracy by Anna Kurt and edited by John Blois.




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