The steps of commencing an action can be complex, this article aims to offer some clarity about the main steps you should consider when commencing an action by notice of civil claim in British Columbia (B.C.). 

Choosing a Court 

Both the Small Claims Court and the Supreme Court of BC handle general civil law matters. Small Claims Court is for disputes about debts or damages below $35,000; whereas, the Supreme Court of BC is for disputes over $35,000 except where the law says the matter must go to a special government agency or tribunal and where the federal government has jurisdiction.

Before proceeding you must take into consideration the limitation period that applies to your case. This limitation period sets a limit on how much time the legislature allows to elapse for commencing an action. 

Commencing your Proceeding 

Once you have determined what court has jurisdiction, there are three ways to commence the proceeding: by way of an action; a petition proceeding; or a requisition proceeding. 

An action is the most common form of lawsuit and typically includes two or more parties. Types of cases can include financial debt, motor vehicle accidents, construction disputes, wrongful termination of employment, and so forth. The action is only commenced once a notice of civil claim has been filed and served. A notice of civil claim (also known as Form 1) contains the basis of your claim, including: (1) the material facts giving rise to a claim; (2) the precise relief sought; and (3) a concise summary of the legal basis for the relief sought. 

A petition proceeding is only applicable for matters dealing with wills and estates, guardianship, adoption, bankruptcy, and foreclosure. Finally, a requisition proceeding covers a very limited scope of cases where an order must be obtained from the court without notice to the other party. 

Filing your Documents 

Once you have your documents in order, you must file them at the court registry. The following documents must include: (a) one copy for the court registry; (b) one copy for your file; (c) one copy for each of the defendants; and (d) the appropriate number of copies for affidavits of service as needed. You will then need to pay the applicable registry filing fees. 

Serving your Documents 

Once filed it is then time to serve the defendants with a stamped copy of the notice of civil claim to notify them that you have started a proceeding against them. The method of service varies for what type of entity the defendants are. Generally, you can serve documents yourself or have someone else do this for you. Service must take place within 12 months of when it was filed in the court registry, if it is not served then the matter will be considered expired. If the ordinary service methods are not available (i.e., can’t find the defendant), you can get a court order for substituted service which allows you to mail the documents to the person’s last known address, to their home, to another adult at that address, or publish an advertisement in the newspaper via a Form 10. 

Response to your Proceeding

Once a defendant has been properly served, they must file and serve a response within 21 days using a Form 2 (if the defendant resides in Canada). A longer period is allowed if the defendant resides outside Ontario. 

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