Before you Start Your Claim
The Alberta Court of Justice (formerly the Provincial Court, commonly known as small claims court) offers a typically quicker, less complicated, and less costly alternative for some types of civil claims. The total value of a civil claim brought in the Alberta Court of Justice (excluding legal costs incurred for the claim) cannot currently exceed $50,000.00, though, on August 1, 2023, this limit will be doubled to $100,000.00.
Common types of claims brought under the Alberta Court of Justice include:
- Debt claims;
- Breach of Contract;
- Claims for damages to property;
- Negligence claims;
- Personal injury claims;
- Return of Property;
- Landlord-tenancy matters;
- Motor Vehicle Accidents claims; and
- Wrongful dismissal claims
The above is not an exhaustive list of types of issues heard by the Alberta Court of Justice, but some types of claims cannot be made at the Alberta Court of Justice and some types of remedies cannot be awarded by the Alberta Court of Justice. Meeting with a Civil Litigation Lawyer or Business Law Lawyer from Main Street Law LLP prior to bringing your claim can help you identify if the Alberta Court of Justice is the appropriate court for your claim. Most claims will be subject to the Limitations Act, so it is important that you act quickly in filing a claim.
The Civil Claim
The first step in an Alberta Court of Justice claim is preparing and filing a Civil Claim with a nearby Alberta Court of Justice location. This document will set out the key facts at issue including, such as identifying yourself and who you are suing, why you are suing, and the remedy you would like the court to award you if successful. It is important that the Civil Claim is properly worded to ensure that the key elements (parts) of your claim are stated.
After the Civil Claim is filed with the courts, it will need to be served on (sent to) the other party that you are suing within. It is important that the rules for service are followed as otherwise it may not qualify as service. Failing to properly serve the defendant can result in delays in your matter and eventually may lead to your claim expiring or not being successful.
If the defendant does not defend themself after you have proven service and the specified time has expired (typically 20 days for service in Alberta, though the specifics may vary based on other details) you can ask the Court to award you a default judgment or otherwise note the defendant in default of a defence.
In some cases, this can be the end of the process though you may need to attend court to provide the court with some more information about your claim prior to receiving a judgment in your favor.
After the Civil Claim is served, the Defendant may file Dispute Note. This document sets out why the Defendant disagrees with your claim, and you should review it carefully. The Defendant may also bring a Counterclaim against you. If you receive a Counterclaim from the Defendant you may be liable for the amounts claimed if you do not successfully defend the Counterclaim.
Once you have received the Dispute Note and all the parties have been served with the relevant documents, the court will determine whether the matter should proceed to via:
- a summary trial;
- a pre-trial conference; or
- a mediation.
The Court will also provide you directions for preparing and attending at the pre-trial steps and it is important that these directions are followed. In general, part of the preparation will be compiling all of the evidence or documents you have related to the claim and providing a copy to the Court and the other party.
If the Court determines it is appropriate the parties may be required to meet to discuss resolving the claim with an unbiased third party mediator during mediation. In other cases, the Court will provide a date for the parties to attend before a Justice of the court to discuss the process and timeline to prepare for a trial.
There is also the opportunity at this stage for the parties to make applications to the Court to help resolve issues that arise during the court proceedings.
The most important part of the matter is the trial. At a trial the Justice will review the evidence of the parties, listen to the witnesses brought forward, and make determinations of what factually happened and how the law applies to that set of facts. Once the Justice has made his or her decision, they will render a judgment.
This is usually the last step for a matter at the Alberta Court of Justice. If one party disagrees with the decision of the Justice, they can appeal the decision to the Court of King’s Bench of Alberta. It is important to note that appeals of a Justice’s decision need to be made within a short period of time and can be a more complicated matter. If you are considering appealing a Judgment, you should consider discussing the matter with a Civil Litigation Lawyer or Business Law Lawyer from Main Street Law LLP lawyer who will be able to advise you on the process and your chances of success.
In Alberta, the court does not enforce judgments on its own. You will be required to take additional steps to enforce your judgment if you are successful with your claim. Judgment enforcement is a separate process outside of the scope of this article. Once you have your judgment you may consider talking to a lawyer about how you can effectively enforce the judgment.
Please be advised that this article was prepared by Mathew Stewart, Civil Litigation Law and Business Law Lawyer with Main Street Law LLP in Spruce Grove in June of 2023. This article is intended as a general overview and general information on a legal subject as the law exists at the time of writing and is not intended to be legal advice. Often the specific facts of your legal matter may change or impact the applicability of this information. For legal advice related specifically to the facts of your concern, please consult with any of the Civil Litigation Law or Business Law Lawyers at Main Street Law LLP at any of our Spruce Grove, Edmonton, or Drayton Valley locations.