A Trial Conference is a short appearance in court to make sure all the parties and the court are ready for the trial. Not every case will have a Trial Conference. If you are not able to resolve your case at the settlement conference the judge may order you and the other party to attend a Trial Conference. If your case started in the Civil Resolution Tribunal you will probably not have a settlement conference, and instead go straight to a Trial Conference. If a Trial Conference is set, you will be sent a Notice of Trial Conference.
The person responsible for presenting your case at the trial must attend. That may either be you, your lawyer, an articled student, or your insurer (if your insurer is defending a claim made against you). Witnesses should not attend. A judge hears the case in a 30-minute conference.
What to Expect
The judge reviews the claim, determines the amount of time needed for trial, and may make other orders for the hearing of the trial.
The judge can:
- Decide on issues that do not require evidence
- Make a payment order
- Discuss evidence that may be required at trial and the procedure followed if a trial is necessary
- Order a party to produce information
- Make an order respecting the evidence of experts
- If the claim is regarding property damage, the judge can order the claimant to allow a person chosen by the defendant to examine the damaged property
- Order the claimant to attend a medical doctor at their expense and serve the doctor’s report on the respondent at least 7 days before trial and bring a copy of the report to the trial
- Make an order respecting time limits for part or all of a trial
- Give a non-binding opinion on the probable outcome of a trial
- Send the matter to mediation, if that has not already occurred
- Dismiss a claim, counterclaim, reply, or third party notice
- Make any other order required for the just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of the claim
If you don’t follow an order from the trial conference, a judge could:
- Adjourn the trial and make you pay reasonable expenses
- Not allow you to lead any of the evidence you withheld
- Dismiss your claim, counterclaim or third party notice
How to Prepare
The court registry will send you a blank Trial Statement and a notice showing the date of your trial conference. You will need to fill this out, file it and serve it to the other party. For information on how to serve the document see Serving Documents. The Trial Statement should contain all the facts you will rely on at trial.
Trial Statement Form includes:
- A statement of fact in the order which events occured
- A calculation of the amount claimed
- Copies of relevant documents
- List of witnesses and a brief summary of what they will each day
If you do not include certain information, you may not be allowed to rely on it at trial.
What to bring to the Trial Conference:
- Your trial statement
- Trial statement you received from the other party
- Your calendar because the judge may direct you to schedule a trial date
Changing the Date
The first step is to ask the other party to agree in writing to the change. If he or she agrees, you can file a consent order, with his or her written consent, at the registry.
If you are unable to reach an agreement with the other party, you may file an Application to the Registrar to adjourn the trial conference at least 7 days before the date set for the trial conference. The application must explain the reason you want to change the date and that you asked the other party to consent. You will need to explain why the trial conference date is unreasonably inconvenient. If the application is granted by the registrar, a new date will be set for your trial conference.
Unreasonably Inconvenient is defined in Rule 7.5(7) as including a family emergency, a pre-arranged out of town trip that can’t be changed, a required to attend court on the same day as the trail conference, or any other reason that satisfies the registrar as unreasonably inconvenient
You may also apply to the registrar within seven days before the trial conference to postpone the trial conference. In addition to proving why the trial conference date is unreasonably inconvenient, you will also need to satisfy the registrar why it was not reasonably practicable to make the application at least 7 days before the scheduled trial conference.
The BC Government amended the Small Claims Rules effective August 16, 2021 to allow for attendance for small claims proceedings to include videoconferencing and audioconferencing. You can read more about it in the news release from the Provincial Court of BC.
If You Don’t Go
If you are the claimant, your claim may be dismissed. If you are the defendant, a payment order may be made against you. If neither party attends, the registrar will make an order dismissing each disputed claim.