Critical Changes to BC Supreme Court Rules Coming July 1, 2010 

publication 

June 2010 - (Lang Michener Litigation Alert, June 2010. Referenced by the Financial Post, June 2010)

Lang Michener Litigation Alert, June 2010.
Referenced by the Financial Post, June 2010

As you may have heard, the British Columbia Rules of Court have undergone a significant revision with potentially significant impacts. The new Rules come into effect on July 1, 2010.
 
What do I need to know now?  

While many aspects of the Rules have changed, there are a few key changes litigants need to be aware of that relate to the commencement and conduct of proceedings and the 2-month transition period that lasts until September 1, 2010:

Commencement of Proceedings Under the New Rules

  • The former Writ of Summons and Statement of Claim are replaced by the Notice of Civil Claim
  • The former Statement of Defence is replaced by the Response to Civil Claim
  • The Appearance form no longer exists.  This means that Defendants must file their Response to Civil Claim within 21 days of being served with the Notice of Civil Claim

The changes to pleadings under the new Rules mean that a Defendant must be ready to respond in a substantive way much more quickly than was required under the former Rules. Since there is no longer the option of simply filing an Appearance to avoid default judgment, it is imperative that parties file a Response to Civil Claim within the 21 days allotted.

Transition Issues

  • Any proceeding that was commenced before July 1, 2010 is considered a "transitional proceeding" under the new Rules. Pleadings filed in the old format will be deemed to be in the new form
  • If, as of July 1st, a Defendant has filed only an Appearance but no Statement of Defence, the Appearance will be deemed to be the Response to Civil Claim
  • A party can make a demand that a document be amended so that it accords with the new Rules. Once that demand is made, the other party has 21 days within which to comply, or risk facing an application to have its claim/response struck
  • If there is a question about which set of Rules applies to a particular aspect of a transitional proceeding, the parties may apply to the court for directions

Other Areas of Significant Change

Other areas of major change in the new Rules include:

  • Discovery – the scope of document discovery and the time allowed for examinations for discovery have both been limited dramatically
  • New timelines will apply to require the expeditious delivery of documents
  • The new Case Planning regime – if one party elects, or the court orders, all aspects of an action can be subject to the broad case planning powers of the court
  • Expert Evidence – the court can now order the use of a joint expert, and the rules around expert reports have changed
  • Fast-Track Litigation & Costs implications – the rules regarding fast-track proceedings have changed and, notably, if any action takes 3 days or fewer at trial and the Plaintiff recovers $100,000 or less, then strict limits apply on the amount of costs that can be recovered (between $8,000 and $11,500)

The new Rules aim to expedite litigation proceedings by forcing parties to engage in the issues more quickly and in a more meaningful way. Plaintiffs must be prepared to proceed with their claims promptly once the Notice of Civil Claim is served. Likewise, Defendants will need to address and respond to the merits of any claim promptly. The entire process is expected to be much more ‘front end loaded', so as to encourage parties to resolve their disputes and avoid clogging up the court system unnecessarily.