Trial Process

Last Reviewed: June, 2021 Reviewed by: JES Contributors

If you haven’t settled your matter through mediation, the Settlement Conference or other court processes, your matter will go to trial. A trial is where both parties have the opportunity to present their case and have a judge make a binding final decision. 

Most BC Small Claims Cases will have a regular trial. But in certain situations depending on the type and location of the case, you may proceed with a simplified or a summary trial.
 

Court Location Type of Claim Type of Trial

All Locations

All matters other than those falling under simplified or summary trials

Regular Trial

Richmond and Robson Square

$5,001 to $10,000 (excluding financial debt under summary trial rules, or personal injury claims)

Simplified Trial

Robson Square

Involves loaning money or extending credit between $5,001 and $35,000 and 

one party is in the business of loaning money

Summary Trial

Regular Trial

Small Claims Court judges have a lot of control over the trial process. They may adapt the process to make it simpler or less formal depending on the case. You should follow the trial judge’s directions but your Small Claims Court trial may look like this:

  1. Opening statement by claimant 
  2. Claimant calls their witnesses - defendant cross examines
  3. Opening statement by defendant 
  4. Defendant calls their witnesses, if any- claimant cross examines
  5. Closing statements
  6. Judge’s decision

Key Term

Cross examination is when one party asks questions of another party’s witness

The judge may ask you and your witnesses questions. Most small claims trials take fewer than two hours, but it depends on the number of witnesses each party calls and the complexity of the case.

Changing the Date

If you cannot make the date set for your trial, you can apply to a judge for a new date under Rule 17(5.1) by filing an Application to a judge. The judge may only change the trial date after an application if they find that:

  1. The change in date is unavoidable and
  2. An injustice would occur if the trial goes ahead as originally scheduled

Remote Attendance 

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 the claimant doesn’t show up to the trial the claim may be dismissed. If the defendant doesn’t show, the judge may allow the claim and a payment order may be made against the defendant. 

Simplified Trial (Richmond and Robson Square courts only)

At Robson Square and Richmond courthouses, all claims from $5,001 to $10,000 (except financial debt claims under Rule 9.2 and personal injury claims) go to a simplified trial. The registry will mail you a Notice of Trial with the trial date and trial statement form if you matter falls under this rule. 

What to Expect

A justice of the peace (an experienced lawyer), who can also be called an adjudicator, will hear your case in a one-hour simplified trial. In most cases, you can expect the adjudicator to deliver his or her decision at the end of the trial. 

At a simplified trial, the adjudicator will ask you to: 

  1. Take an oath or affirm that you will tell the truth
  2. State the facts related to the claim
  3. File any documents on which you rely, and respond to the other party
  4. The adjudicator may ask you questions, ask you to swear to the truth of your trial statement, permit witnesses, and allow you to ask the other party questions

At the end of the trial, the judge will make a payment order, dismiss the claim or order that the claim be sent to a settlement conference, trial conference, or a trial.

How to Prepare

Complete the Trial Statement Form and file it with the registry. The Trial Statement should contain all the facts you will rely on at trial. You only have a short time to make your case, so be sure to be organized and make a list of all the important points you want to make. See Building Your Case.

The Trial Statement Form includes:

  • A statement of fact in the order which events occured
  • A calculation of the amount claimed
  • Copies of relevant documents
  • A list of witnesses and a brief summary of what they will each say

Before the simplified trial the adjudicator will review the trial statements filed by you and the other party.

Find the Form

Learn More

DIY Tools

For guidance take a look at our Sample Trial Statement Form

Changing the Date

If you cannot make the date set for your simplified trial, you can request to have the date changed.

Steps to changing your trial date:

  1. Ask the other party to agree in writing to the change. If they agree, you can file a consent order at the registry
  2. If unable to agree- file an Application to the Registrar to the registry. The application must explain the reason you want to change the date and that you asked the other party to consent
  3. If the application is granted by the registrar, a new date will be set for your simplified trial

If You Don’t Go

If the claimant doesn’t show up to the trial the claim may be dismissed. If the defendant doesn’t show, the judge may allow the claim and a payment order may be made against the defendant. 

Summary Trial - Robson Square Only

Small Claims cases go to summary trial if the claimant is in the business of lending money or extending credit and the claim is for a debt that arises from a loan of money or the extension of credit in the course of that business. The claim must be between $5,001 and $35,000. This type of trial is only available at the Robson Square Registry. Claims may only be filed at the court registry nearest where the defendant lives, carries on business, or where the transaction took place.

How to Prepare

The Robson Square court registry in Vancouver will send you a notice showing the date of your summary trial. Summary trials can go very quickly so being organized and prepared is very important. To prepare:

  • Gather and organize all your documents
  • Write down the major points you want to tell the judge
  • Think about questions you want to ask the other parties

What to Expect

Judges decide summary trials. They usually take fewer than 30 minutes to complete. Summary trials do not have to follow the same formal rules of procedure and evidence as regular trials do.

At the summary trial, the judge may ask you to explain your case, respond to the other party and call witnesses. The judge does not have to comply with the formal rules of procedure and evidence and so have a lot of control over the process. You will be asked to take an oath or to affirm that you will tell the truth before giving your evidence.

At the end of the trial, the judge will make a payment order, dismiss the claim or order that the claim be sent to mediation or a trial conference.

Change the Date

If you cannot make the date set for your summary trial, you can request to have the date changed. Steps to changing your trial date:

  1. Ask the other party to agree in writing to the change. If they agree, you can file a consent order at the registry
  2. If unable to agree- file an Application to the Registrar to the registry. The application must explain the reason you want to change the date and that you asked the other party to consent
  3. If the application is granted by the registrar, a new date will be set for your simplified trial

If You Don’t Go

If the claimant doesn’t show up to the trial the claim may be dismissed. If the defendant doesn’t show, the judge may allow the claim and a payment order may be made against the defendant. 

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