What’s new in Small Claims Court? Virtual & in-person proceedings. Document filing deadlines.

Posted to: 
Court
19/04/2021

You may have heard that during the COVID-19 pandemic some types of court appearances are taking place in BC courthouses, but others are happening by telephone or online video-conferences to protect court users’ health. How do you know if you should go to court for the next stage of your small claims case or stay at home on your court date and power up your computer or cell phone? How do you send documents to the Court and the other party before a virtual court proceeding?

The Court has published a Practice Direction modifying certain requirements in the Small Claims Rules until the provincial state of emergency ends. Practice Direction Sm Cl 02 explains what types of small claims proceedings are being held in-person in courthouses, and what types are being conducted virtually with people attending by telephone or video. It also permits sworn testimony by audio or videoconference and explains when and how to file documents before various types of small claims proceedings.

“Default” methods

The Practice Direction outlines “default methods” of appearing and conducting hearings. This means they’ll take place in that way unless a judge orders something different. If you think the usual “default” way won’t work for you for some reason, you can ask a judge to order a different way of conducting your court appearance, using Application to a Judge (Form 17).

Small claims trials and default hearings

Small claims trials (including Rule 9.1 simplified trials and Rule 9.2 summary trials) and Rule 13 default hearings will take place in-person at a courthouse unless a judge orders or directs a different method of proceeding.

A party wishing their trial or hearing, or part of it, to take place by telephone or video must make an application to a judge.



Small claims conferences, applications and payment hearings

Small claims trial conferences, settlement conferences, applications to a judge*, and payment hearings will take place by telephone or audioconference or videoconference, unless a judge or judicial justice orders or directs that it be conducted in-person at a courthouse.

The Provincial Court uses Microsoft Teams as the platform for its audio and video conferences. See the Court’s Guide to Virtual Proceedings (NP 21). The Guide’s first part explains etiquette and tips for making virtual proceedings work well. The second part, called Appendix A, explains how to connect and manage Microsoft Teams.

The Court encourages people taking part in virtual proceedings to use the videoconference option, if at all possible. But a dial-in telephone conference number will always be provided for those who can’t, or in case a video connection fails during the proceeding.

You should dress the same way for virtual proceedings as you would when attending a courthouse. Lawyers are expected to wear business attire whether appearing in a virtual courtroom or a courthouse.

Everyone participating in a virtual proceeding must read and obey:

• the BC Courts’ Policy on Use of Electronic Devices in Courtrooms
Access to Court Proceedings Policy (these two policies apply to both in-person and virtual proceedings)
NP 21 Guide to Virtual Proceedings for virtual proceedings.

Practice Direction Sm Cl 02 states that sworn evidence may be given and received by telephone or Microsoft Teams audioconference or videoconference, in spite of Rules 16.1(7) and 17(16).

No recording or broadcasting

You are not permitted to audio- or video-record, photograph, take a screenshot, or broadcast any portion of a virtual proceeding.

Filing and Serving Required Documents

The filing and service requirements in the Small Claims Rules continue to apply with these exceptions:

• Settlement Conferences

When a date for a Settlement Conference by telephone or Teams audio or videoconference is set, the court registry will send the parties an Information for Virtual Appearance document. It will explain how to connect to the virtual appearance and how to submit relevant documents and reports. Options for submitting documents will include remote methods like email or using Court Services Online.

Parties must file their relevant documents and reports at the court registry at least two business days before the Settlement Conference.

• Trial Conferences

When a date for a Trial Conference by telephone or Teams audio or videoconference is set, the court registry will send the parties an Information for Virtual Appearance document. It will explain how to connect to the virtual appearance and how to file a Trial Statement (Form 33) with attached copies of all relevant documents before the Trial Conference.

Parties must file their relevant documents and reports at the court registry at least 14 days before the Trial Conference.

• Applications to a Judge

When a party files an application to a judge and a virtual hearing is set, the court registry will give or send them an Information for Virtual Appearance document. It will explain how to connect to the virtual hearing and how to file documents attached to a new Supporting Materials form two business days before the hearing.

The applicant must provide a copy of the Information for Virtual Appearance to the other party or parties when serving them with a copy of the application.

• Payment Hearings

Ordered by a judge or judicial justice -
Where a judge or judicial justice orders a debtor to attend a payment hearing and it is set for hearing by telephone or Teams audio or videoconference, the debtor must file the financial documents they are required to bring to the payment hearing [see Rule 12(9)] at least two business days before the payment hearing.

The court registry will provide the creditor and debtor with an Information for Virtual Appearance document about how to connect to the virtual hearing, and how the debtor can file their documents attached to a new Supporting Materials form.

Initiated by a creditor -
Where a creditor files a summons to a payment hearing and the payment hearing is scheduled by telephone or Teams audioconference or videoconference, the court registry will provide the creditor with an Information for Virtual Appearance document. The creditor must provide a copy of the Information for Virtual Appearance document to the debtor when serving them with a copy of the summons. The debtor must file the documents listed on the summons at least two business days before the payment hearing, using new Supporting Materials form.

Initiated by a debtor -
Where a debtor has filed a Notice of Payment Hearing Form to request a payment hearing, and it has been scheduled by telephone or Teams audio or videoconference, the court registry will provide the debtor with an Information for Virtual Appearance document. The debtor must provide a copy of the Information for Virtual Appearance and a blank Supporting Materials form to the creditor when serving them with the Notice of Payment Hearing.

• Rule 9.1 Simplified Trials

Where Rule 9.1 applies and a date has been set for a Simplified Trial, the parties must file a completed Trial Statement (Form 33) with copies of all relevant documents at least 14 days before the trial. The court registry will provide the parties with information about how to file their Trial Statement and related documents when they are notified of their trial date.

Useful links
Small Claims Rules
Small Claims Forms

*Under Small Claims Rules 6(5), 1.1(41.22), 3(8), 7.3(42), 8(1)(b), 8(1.1), 12(8), and 16(6).