Introduction
Introduction

We recommend that you watch the introductory video first. It will provide you with an overview of the British Columbia court system, and this website.

To learn more about British Columbia's trial and appeal courts, select an option from the menu above.

Civil Law

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What is a Civil Case?

Whenever people interact with each other, there is potential for disagreement. Sometimes, these disagreements reach the court through civil cases. Individuals, businesses, and governments may all experience conflicts or disputes where one party says that they have suffered damage as a result of legally wrongful conduct committed by another party.

Examples of such cases include contract disputes, divorces, custody disputes, contested wills and estates, and personal injury claims.

A civil case gets started when one party files court documents called pleadings. Then, the other party can file their own documents to present their position.

Whoever starts this process is called the plaintiff, claimant or the petitioner. The party on the other side is called the defendant or the respondent. A style of cause shows who is suing and who is being sued. If your last name was Jones, for example, and you were suing someone named Smith, the case would be called Jones v. Smith. You would be the plaintiff and Smith would be the defendant.

You or Smith could decide to represent yourselves. Or, you could hire a lawyer to represent you in court.

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How Are Civil Cases Decided?

Courts would try to help you and Smith find your own solution, but if that didn�t work, then the court would decide the outcome of the case.

Civil cases are heard at all court levels. If your case involved a claim of $25,000 or under, it could be brought to the Small Claims in the Provincial Court of BC. They generally cost less money and take less time than trials in Supreme Court.

If your case involved a larger claim, it could be heard by a judge or jury in the Supreme Court of BC. If you chose to have a jury, you would face eight jurors who are regular citizens charged by the court to make judicial decisions. Most Supreme Court civil cases are heard by a judge sitting alone.

Judges or juries will listen to both sides, weigh the evidence, and make a decision in favour of either you or Smith. The successful party is the one who can convince the court that their side of the case is more probable. This is called proving your case on the balance of probabilities. It is different from the type of proof required in a criminal case.

If a plaintiff is the successful party in a civil trial, the judge will award damages to the plaintiff. If the defendant is the successful party then the claim will be dismissed. In either case the judge may also decide to award �costs� to the successful party which is money to help cover part of their court expenses.

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