- What is mediation?
- What type of small claims cases are scheduled for mediation?
- What happens at the mediation?
- How should I prepare?
- What happens if we agree?
- What if mediation does not solve the problem?
- What happens if I need to change the date of the mediation?
- Who can I talk to if I have questions about mediation?
- Is this information available in any other languages?
What is mediation?
Mediation is often quicker and less expensive than going to trial and asking a judge to make a verdict. It is a good process to use when the dispute is between people who have an ongoing relationship, such as neighbours or business colleagues. It is less formal and sometimes a more productive process to solve the dispute when compared to a trial.
The mediations are held in rooms in the courthouse and are private - unlike trials, which are open to the public. The parties involved in the case must attend the mediation. If a party is a corporation, society or partnership, someone who knows the facts of the case and who has authority to settle the dispute must attend. Generally, witnesses do not attend. There is no cost to the parties.
A neutral and unbiased third party called a mediator will help resolve a disagreement to the satisfaction of both parties. A mediator does not make a decision, but helps the parties work through the issues and come to a final resolution.
What type of small claims cases are scheduled for mediation?
At Robson Square courthouse in Vancouver, most claims above $5,000 and up to $25,000 – and all personal injury claims – are scheduled for mediation, pursuant to Rule 7.4.
Who decides the case and how long does it take?
Mediations are scheduled for two hours and are decided by the parties with the help of a mediator. The mediator is impartial and trained to help the parties work through the issues and come to a final resolution. Mediators sometimes work in teams of two. They are assigned by the BC Dispute Resolution Practicum Society.
What happens at the mediation?
At the mediation, the mediator and the parties sit around a table in a mediation room. The mediator will review the Agreement to Mediate and answer any questions about the process. Together you will decide on the issues to be resolved and the parties will present their stories and what is most important to them. Often, the mediator will meet separately with the parties to discuss possible solutions.
If you do not understand what is being said during the mediation, you may ask questions at any time. The mediator helps to guide the discussion so everyone has a chance to speak. If the mediation does not work, the next step will be to go to a trial conference.
How should I prepare for mediation?
Since you will present your case at mediation, you should start by having a clear description of the events that lead to the dispute. As you prepare for mediation, you should be able to answer the following questions:
- What is really important to me in this dispute?
- What are the other party’s main concerns?
- How can I answer those concerns?
- What would be the best result possible?
- What would be the worst result possible?
You should also bring your original documents, invoices, witness statements, and/or photographs to the mediation as well as copies for the mediator and other party. Preparation for mediation will not be a wasted effort even if you do not settle as it will help to narrow the issues and make the trial shorter. Use the Mediation Worksheet to help you prepare.
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.
If you have a lawyer representing you, your lawyer may attend the mediation with you. If your lawyer will not attend the mediation, you should still talk to him or her about how to prepare and what to expect.
What happens if the parties reach an agreement through mediation?
You are not required to reach a final agreement at mediation. If an agreement is made on some or all of the issues in dispute, the mediator will file a Result of Mediation (Form 24) at the registry and you will also prepare and sign a Mediation Agreement which is filed and enforced through the court. If some or none of the issues are resolved, the case will proceed to a settlement conference.
What if mediation does not solve the problem?
If the mediation does not result in an agreement, the next step is a trial conference. Occasionally, only some issues are resolved at mediation. When this happens, the issues that have been decided are put into an agreement and the rest of the case proceeds to the next step.
Will the trial conference judge be told what happened at the mediation?
The trial conference judge is told only what issues remain to be resolved - not what happened or what was said at the mediation.
Does unsuccessful mediation just add more time to my court case?
Even if mediation does not fully resolve your case, it is unlikely to be a wasted effort. If you do have a trial, it may be shorter and easier than if you had not participated in mediation first.
What happens if one of the parties does not attend the mediation?
If the claimant does not attend the mediation, the case may be dismissed. If the defendant does not attend the mediation, the claimant may ask for an immediate judgment against the defendant.
The mediator 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.
What happens if I need to change the date of the mediation?
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) at least seven days before the date set for mediation. 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 mediation date is unreasonably inconvenient. Unreasonably inconvenient is defined in Rule 7.4(21), 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 mediation, 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 mediation.
You may also apply to the registrar within seven days before the mediation hearing. In addition to proving why the mediation 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 mediation.
If can’t physically attend the mediation, you can apply to the registrar using Form 16 and request that you attend the mediation by telephone, if you don’t live near the courthouse or there are exceptional circumstances.
Or you can make an application to a judge, at least seven days before the mediation is to occur, and ask to either exempt the entire claim from mediation or exempt a party from attending. In practical terms, it would require unusual circumstances to allow the mediation to occur without either the claimant or respondent present.
Who can I talk to if I have questions about mediation?
Court Mediation Program staff can answer specific questions you may have about the mediation process. Contact:
Court Mediation Program
Telephone: 604-684-1300 Fax: 604-684-1306
Vancouver - Robson Square Small Claims Court Registry
Telephone: 604-660-8989 Fax: 604-660-7095
Is this information available in any other languages?
To learn more about mediation in Vancouver, select your language below: