Small Claims Jurisdiction

It is important before commencing any legal action in the Provincial Court of British Columbia often referred to as the Small Claims court that the action is within the jurisdiction of the court. If you file in the wrong court it can have significant repercussions such as your case being dismissed and being unable to file in another court or jurisdiction due to the limitation period passing.

The first a most well-known jurisdictional issues with the Small Claims court is with regards to the monetary limit. The Court is unable to hear matters in which the amount claimed is in excess of $35,000 unless the claimant waives their right to any award over that amount. Furthermore, if the amount claimed is less than $5,000 then it should likely proceed in the new Civil Resolution Tribunal unless a specific exemption exists to refer it back to Small Claims.

The authority of the Provincial Court to hear a claim comes from section 3 of the Small Claims Act, RSBC 1996 C430 which allows the court to hear claims for debt, damages, recovery of personal property and specific performance of an agreement relating to personal property or services.

The Provincial Court does not have jurisdiction to hear claims relating to libel and/or slander, malicious prosecution, title to land, enforcement of foreign judgments, recovery of property under the Personal Property Security Act, bankruptcy, trade mark and any matter in which the jurisdiction has been granted to another court or body by a statute.

The Provincial Court does have jurisdiction to hear matters as they relate to enforcing or interpreting a will or assisting with probate as these matters have been directly granted to the Supreme Court of British Columbia by enabling statute. Similarly human right complaints, work safe complaints and tenancy matters are within the jurisdiction of their tribunals and agencies.

Similarly some employment disputes are only within the jurisdiction of Employment Standards such as request for parole documentation and work conditions/policies. Unpaid wages are however within the jurisdiction of the Provincial Court unless the employee has already received a determination from the employment standards branch relating to the unpaid wages or the matter has proceeded before the Employment Standards Tirbunal.

It is important to ensure before commencing any legal action that the court or tribunal in which you are acting has jurisdiction to hear your claim.