Alberta Provincial Court Process: Understanding Small Claims Court
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Alberta Provincial Court Process: Understanding Small Claims CourtJeff Kahane2020-04-25T18:45:34+00:00
Everything You Need To Know About The Alberta Provincial Court
Alberta Provincial Court Process Understanding Small Claims Court
With most things in life, not understanding them, often leads to confusion, uncertainty and stress. The Alberta Provincial Court Process, also called Small Claims Court, is set up for people to navigate on their own.As a firm, the lawyers at Kahane Law Office in Calgary, encourage clients to represent themselves, when appropriate. Of course, we act from start to finish for clients, however, we also provide limited services to guide clients. For instance, if you prefer to act for yourself, but need help, we offer consultations on a “as needed” basis. We refer to this as a limited scope retainer whereby you only hire us for a small piece of the litigation process. Learn more below about all the steps and know, that if you need help with any of them, we are here.
Alberta Provincial Court Eligibility
The first step to determining your eligibility to use the Alberta Provincial Court Process, is to know the limits prescribed by law. There are three essential things you need to have in order to be eligible to bring your matter to Small Claims Court:
Claim Limit Of $50,000.00
Small claims court only allows claims of up to $50,000.00. If your claim is greater than this amount, then you have two choices. Alberta Provincial Court allows plaintiffs, the person suing someone else, to utilize the system but they must abandon any amount of the claim over $50,000.00. Alternatively, if they still wish to sue, then they must use the Court of Queen’s Bench to file their claim. This process is more complex and often more expensive.
Alberta has a two year limitation period from when you know, or should have know that you had a claim. Further, the limitation period is capped at 10 years, meaning that if you learn you have a claim 12 years after the incident from which the claim arose, the law prevents you from successfully making a claim.
Type Of Matter
The Alberta Provincial Court system, may only hear and rule on certain matters. If you sue someone in this court and it lack the jurisdiction to grant you your judgement, then the claim automatically fails. For example, the Small Claims Court lacks jurisdiction to hear defamation matters.
Outline Of Small Claims Process:
When starting a claim in Alberta Provincial Court, a distinct process exists by law. The steps include:
Filing a Civil Claim at the courthouse;
Serving the Civil Claim on opposing party within one year from filing date;
Filing an Affidavit of Service with the courts; and lastly
The defendant then has 20 days from the date he/she was served to file and serve a defence, also called a Dispute Note.
Once the Defendant is served with the Civil Claim the process will go one of two ways, depending on whether the Defendant files and serves a Dispute Note in time. If they fail to file a dispute note, you essentially win. See below for the process when a defendant fails to defend themselves.
Once the Defendant files their Dispute Note, the Alberta Provincial Court schedules the matter for one or more of the following:
This is a mandatory appearance if the court schedules you for it. You and the opposing party will attend the mediation. Two mediators will be in attendance. The goal is to come to a resolution. If a resolution is not reached, or it appears as though one will not be reached in the allotted time, then the mediators will provide you with a Certificate of Completion and you will be assigned to the next stage of the process (either a Pre-Trial Conference, Simplified Trial or a Trial).
This is a planning conference for trial. If you file a Civil Claim, you can expect to attend a Pre-Trail Conference before obtaining a trial date from the Court. The Pre-Trial Conference is mandatory for all parties to attend. A judge conducts the Conference. The judge who conducts the PTC will not be the judge that presides over the trial (if the matter proceeds to trial). The judge will first determine if there is any chance of the matter settling. If not, the judge will outline the legal issues for each party. The judge will then determine how many witnesses each party is planning to call at trial. The judge will then set relevant deadlines for evidence disclosure for each party. Finally, the judge will schedule a trial date.
Binding Judicial Dispute Resolution (JDR)
As an alternative to the above, both parties may agree to binding judicial dispute resolution. A binding JDR is a streamlined process where your matter will be assessed by a judge much faster than the traditional process. The actual hearing itself is less formal and less time consuming than a traditional trial. The judge’s decision is binding and enforceable.
This is a new process in Alberta Provincial Court as of January 2019. Your the court assigns the matter to a Simplified Trial if the Court deems it appropriate. A Simplified Trial has all of the relevant components of a trial, but usually takes place in one hour, rather than a half day to multiple days.
Provincial Court Trials
If you proceed through mediation and/or a Pre-Trial Conference and are not successful at obtaining a resolution, the Provincial Court will schedule a trial for you. You will be responsible for disclosing all documents that you intend to rely on at trial. You will also be responsible for serving witnesses that you want to testify with a Notice to Attend as a Witness, and filing Affidavits of Service for same. Finally, you will have to question your own witnesses and cross-examine the opposing party’s witnesses at the trail.
Typically, the judge will give their decision immediately at the conclusion of the trial. However, there are circumstances where a judge will give a written decision. You can expect to receive a written decision anywhere from one to six months after trial.
Defendant Does Not Defend
If you are not served with a Dispute Note within 20 days from the day you served the Defendant with your Civil Claim, you obtain Default Judgment on requesting it. To do so, you will file either a Request to Note in Default or a Certificate of Default Judgment. If your Claim is for a straightforward debt such as an unpaid invoice, then you can file a Certificate of Default Judgment. You will obtain a Judgment from the Court within a few weeks after doing so. If your Claim is not as straightforward, you will need to file a Request to Note in Default, along with a supporting Affidavit that outlines the damages you sustained. The Court will review and issue a Judgment that it sees fit. The Court may also order a hearing to question you about the damages you sustained.
All of these processes have caveats to them. Nothing is straightforward in litigation, and your course of action will vary depending on the relevant circumstances. This is why we offer Litigation Coaching for small claims court. A lot of this can be done on your own, with the independent coaching of a lawyer who can answer questions, review documents and provide strategic tips along the way. Doing so allows you to benefit from the expertise of a lawyer, without the legal fees of a traditional retainer.
Enforcing Your Alberta Provincial Court Judgment
Once you obtain a judgment, you need to enforce it under the Civil Enforcement Act. Our firm assists clients with this aspect of the Alberta Provincial Court process too. Essentially this means actually getting the money owed to you from the defendant if they fail to hand it over.
Hiring Alberta Provincial Court Lawyers
If you need to schedule an appointment and meet with an Alberta Provincial Court lawyer, please contact our experienced team at Kahane Law Office. We offer exceptional value, offering many services on a flat rate fee basis. CONNECT with us today. For fastest service email us directly here. However, also feel free to call us at 403-225-8810 locally in Calgary, Alberta.