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The Supreme Court of BC hears civil lawsuits worth a value over $35,000; however, as of April 1, 2019 the Civil Resolution Tribunal will start resolving many motor vehicle injury disputes of a value up to $50,000. The court also hears cases involving slander, and appeal of Small Claims Court decisions. In addition, appeals of administrative law cases – where a decision was made by a tribunal hearing – are handled in Supreme Court through a judicial review. In this court, a judge or a jury would hear the case, but it’s almost always just a judge. For family law disputes, see Family.
Any party, including individuals, partnerships, corporations, or other legal entities can be involved in civil litigation. Civil litigation deals with torts (the legal term for a civil wrong, injury or harm), contractual, and other disputes recognized by the law.
In a civil case that goes to trial, proof is based on a "balance of probabilities". This means that a judge only needs to be convinced that it is more probable than not that one side is right.
Judgment is then given in favour of one party. When the case has concluded, costs may be awarded to the successful party to cover part of their expenses in coming to court (called “costs”). The guidebook on Costs in the Supreme Court covers this topic in more detail.
Most cases are started with a "Notice of civil claim", but some types of cases must be started with a document called a "Petition". You must use the correct document to start your legal action. You do not have a choice about how to start your lawsuit – the Supreme Court Rules dictate the correct procedure. If in doubt, you should get legal advice to answer this key question.
In very general terms, cases relating to wills and estate matters, interest in land, or the property of people under a disability (such as infants) are started with a petition. It is very important to read the full text of Rule 2-1 to understand the particular cases that must be commenced by petition. Most other cases are started by filing a notice of civil claim, and are called “actions”.
A notice of civil claim and a petition are documents that notify both the court and the people you are suing that you have started a court proceeding. These documents are called pleadings. For more information about starting a case, see the guidebook called, Starting an Action by Notice of Civil Claim.
In general, people who start a lawsuit are called:
People who defend a lawsuit are called:
You will find it helpful to consult a lawyer before you begin any litigation. A lawyer can give you information and assistance with every stage of the litigation whether you are suing or being sued. This is true even if you decide to do most of the work yourself. Consulting a lawyer – even if only for a short time – can save you time, money and difficulties in the long run. A lawyer can also put your problem into perspective by giving you neutral, objective advice.
The following guides may be helpful as you go through a case in Supreme Court.
Actions Commenced by Notice of Civil Claim
Proceedings Commenced by Petition
Court is a formal and serious setting. Make sure that you do everything possible to make a good impression when you appear in the courtroom. Here are some tips to help you:
The SupremeCourtBC.ca website is the leading source of information for British Columbians who bring a lawsuit to the Supreme Court. The site includes 26 Guidebooks for Self-Representing Litigants. In addition, free legal help is provided through “Ask JES” a live chat service available weekdays from 11am to 2pm. During offline hours, users can submit questions to receive a response by email.
IMPORTANT: This page provides legal information, not legal advice. If you need legal advice consult a lawyer.
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