Provincial Court issues notice on small claims changes

A Notice to the Profession from the Provincial Court
Chief Judge Hugh C. Stansfield
February 2, 2006

In response to the increase in the monetary jurisdiction of the Small Claims Act to $25,000, the Provincial Court of BC has made a number of scheduling changes in order to resolve cases in a “just, speedy, inexpensive and simple manner,” according to the mandate in section 2 of the Act.

Cases under $10,000

Cases where the amount claimed is under $10,000 will be scheduled for settlement conference as before, namely at a time assigned by the Settlement Conference Notice. These cases will be set at eight per day.

Cases over $10,000

Cases where the amount claimed is over $10,000 will be scheduled for settlement conferences at four per day, giving the parties more time to explore settlement by way of judicially assisted mediation. Administrative judges will review these files, prior to the Settlement Conference Notice being sent, to exclude cases from this stream which, on the face, do not appear to warrant a longer settlement conference.

Cases requiring more than one-half day of trial time

The average civil trial in Provincial Court is 109 minutes, or less than one-half day. All cases that are estimated to exceed one-half day for trial, whether over or under $10,000, will be adjourned to a trial preparation settlement conference. Orders may be made at the settlement conference requiring statements of facts, witness “will say” documents and reports to be brought to the trial preparation settlement conference.

The trial preparation settlement conference will generally occur in a settlement conference room and will be a working session to examine evidence and determine issues. It is also expected that counsel will address, with the judge, the issue of keeping trial time close to the average required in Provincial Court to fulfil the purpose of just, speedy, simple and inexpensive resolution of disputes.

It is expected that only one settlement conference will be required in each case to explore settlement, and a further conference, in cases set for more than one-half day, to prepare for trial.

Settlement offer rule

The profession is encouraged to utilize the settlement offer Rule 10.1 prior to, or within 30 days of, a settlement conference which may permit a recovery of substantial costs, if a matter proceeds through trial.