What is a trial conference?
All cases in Small Claims Court must be heard in a trial conference if they have not already been resolved in a previous step in the court process.
The person responsible for presenting your case at the trial must attend. That may either be you, your lawyer, an articled student, or your insurer (if your insurer is defending a claim made against you). Witnesses should not attend.
Who hears the case and how long does it take?
A judge hears the case in a 30-minute conference.
What happens at a trial conference?
The judge reviews the claim, determines the amount of time needed for trial, and may make other orders for the hearing of the trial. The judge may also:
- Decide on issues that do not require evidence
- Make a payment order
- Discuss evidence that may be required at trial and the procedure followed if a trial is necessary
- Order a party to produce information
- Make an order respecting the evidence of experts
- If the claim is regarding property damage, the judge can order the claimant to allow a person chosen by the defendant to examine the damaged property
- Order the claimant to attend a medical doctor at their expense and serve the doctor’s report on the respondent at least 7 days before trial and bring a copy of the report to the trial
- Make an order respecting time limits for part or all of a trial
- Give a non-binding opinion on the probable outcome of a trial
- Send the matter to mediation, if that has not already occurred
- Dismiss a claim, counterclaim, reply, or third party notice
- Make any other order required for the just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of the claim
How do I prepare for a trial conference?
The court registry will send you a blank Trial Statement (Form 33) and a notice showing the date of your trial conference.
The Trial Statement Form summarizes your case and you must file it at the court registry at least 14 days before the trial conference. You must also serve a copy to on the other party at least seven days before the trial conference. Refer to Supreme Court Rule 4 for the process for serving a document. You can use the Serving Documents Checklist to ensure you serve your documents correctly.
To complete your trial statement, follow the directions on the form. You must attach a statement of facts in date order, a calculation of the amount claimed, copies of relevant documents, and a list of witnesses you intend to call with a brief summary of what each witness will say.
You should bring your trial statement and the trial statement you received from the other party. You should also bring your calendar because the judge may direct you to schedule a trial date.
If you need an interpreter you must provide your own accredited interpreter. This can be arranged through the Society of Translators and Interpreters. You must pay all interpreting fees yourself (with the exception of a sign language interpreter) unless the court rules in your favour and directs that your court costs be paid by the other party. However, even if the court does order this, you will still need to pay all interpreting fees in advance. You would be reimbursed for this expense later. If you need more information about interpreters, visit the Court Services Branch’s website.
What happens if I need to change the date of the trial conference?
The first step is to ask the other party to agree in writing to the change. If he or she agrees, you can file a consent order, with his or her written consent, at the registry.
If you are unable to reach an agreement with the other party, you may file an Application to the Registrar (Form 16) to adjourn the trial conference at least seven days before the date set for the trial conference. The application must explain the reason you want to change the date and that you asked the other party to consent. You will need to explain why the trial conference date is unreasonably inconvenient.
Unreasonably inconvenient is defined in Rule 7.5(7), as including a family emergency, a pre-arranged out of town trip that can’t be changed, a required to attend court on the same day as the trail conference, or any other reason that satisfies the registrar as unreasonably inconvenient. If the application is granted by the registrar, a new date will be set for your trial conference.
You may also apply to the registrar to adjourn the trial conference within seven days before the trial conference. In addition to proving why the trial conference date is unreasonably inconvenient, you will also need to satisfy the registrar why it was not reasonably practicable to make the application at least 7 days before the scheduled trial conference.
What happens if one of the parties does not attend the trial conference?
If you are the claimant, your claim may be dismissed. If you are the defendant, a payment order may be made against you.
The judge must complete a Verification of Default (Form 31) and give it to the parties attending in order to obtain a dismissal or default judgment. If neither party attends, the registrar will make an order dismissing each disputed claim.
For more information, see Small Claims Rule 7.5 or contact:
Richmond Court Services
Telephone: 604-660-6900 Fax: 604-660-1797