Big Changes Come to Small Claims Court

As of June 1st, 2017, there were two important changes for those considering bringing lawsuits in the small claims division of the BC provincial court.

The most significant change was an increase in the limit of what is recoverable in small claims lawsuits. Prior to June 1, 2017, a plaintiff in a small claims action could not recover more than $25,000 in damages. Any lawsuit seeking more than this amount had to be commenced in the BC Supreme Court. However, as of June 1, 2017, this $25,000 limit increased to $35,000. This was the first increase to the small claims limit since 2005 when it was increased from $10,000 to $25,000. While not yet announced, it is likely that the $35,000 limit will further increase in the coming years.

The second change applies to lawsuits seeking $5,000 in damages or less. With a few exceptions, as of June 1, 2017, it became mandatory for actions seeking $5,000 or less to be heard through the Civil Resolution Tribunal, a new, online dispute resolution tribunal.

These changes have the effect of increasing the amount of damages that can be sought in small claims cases, making it more economical to get a lawyer involved at an early stage to try to resolve claims within small claims jurisdiction.