Lesson 9: Provincial Court of BC

Topic 5: Small Claims

The Small Claims Court deals with civil cases that have a claim for $25,000 or less in damages.

The name “Small Claims” fits for some of the cases, but can be kind of misleading in others. It applies to all Provincial Court civil cases, whether for minor amounts like $200 or claims where the plaintiff is claiming up to $25,000 in damages which isn’t exactly a small claim for most people.

Civil Cases

With a few exceptions, the Provincial Court hears most kinds of civil disputes, such as claims for debt or damages, construction disputes, personal injury claims, recovery of personal property or enforcement of agreements or contracts involving personal property or services.

You can sue for damages regarding the purchase or sale of a piece of land in Provincial Court if the dispute is about aspects of the sale which you claim to be a breach of the sale contract. But, you would need to go to the Supreme Court if you were seeking a change in the title to the land.

Claims such as builders’ liens, bankruptcy, wills and estates, libel or slander, or suing the federal government all have to be heard by a Supreme Court judge.

Citizens can sue the provincial government in either the Provincial Court of BC or the Supreme Court of BC.

Procedures

A large majority of cases settle without a trial, and can be settled at any time during the proceedings.

In every case that is disputed by the respondent, Small Claims Court holds a settlement conference with a judge or a mediation session with a court appointed mediator who is not a judge. If the parties are unable to agree on a resolution, and the case has to go to trial, then there may be a pre-trial conference so that everyone is clear in advance about the legal issues and how the trial will proceed.

New Streams

In Vancouver and Richmond, for all cases filed after November 26, 2007, settlement conferences have been replaced with four new streams: summary hearing, simplified trial, mediation, trial, and trial conference.