Civil law deals with disputes that arise between individuals, businesses and governments. Some common civil law disputes are breach of contract and personal injury. Both the Small Claims Court and the Supreme Court have civil law jurisdiction, but the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court is limited by statute. Generally, if your dispute is about money or the return of property and the value is $25,000 or less, the Small Claims Court has jurisdiction.
Before you go to court, it is always a good idea to try to resolve the matter with the other party directly.
Small Claims Court has jurisdiction for the payment of money if the amount claimed is $25,000 or less (not including interest) and for the recovery of property if the property value is $25,000 or less. However, if the dispute is about the administration of the estate of a deceased person, brings an interest in land into question, or is about defamation, it will have to be resolved in Supreme Court regardless of how much money is involved.
Compared to Supreme Court, the Small Claims Court is faster at resolving disputes and it has simpler forms and processes. Most people do not use a lawyer when they go to Small Claims Court.
The Small Claims Court uses forms that are available online. When filling out the Claim form, you do not have to include all the details of the dispute in the space provided in the form, and it is often better to attach a second page with more detail as well as supporting documents, such as pictures, contracts, or invoices. Once you complete the Claim, you will file it with the court registry and serve a copy on the person or business you are making your claim against (you will have to file something else with the court saying you have done this). It costs $50 to file a Claim if you are claiming up to $5,000 and $100 to file a Claim for more than $5000.
If a Claim has been made against you and you do not agree with it, you should complete the prescribed ‘Reply’ form. You do not have to include all the details about why you disagree in the space provided in the form – generally it is better to attach a second page and provide more detail. You should also attach supporting documents that were not attached to the Claim.
The Reply form provides a few different options. You may entirely disagree with the Claim, or you may agree with the Claim but dispute the amount. In that case, you can write in what you think you owe. You may also disagree with the Claim and think you have a Claim against the plaintiff, which means you would also file a ‘Counterclaim’. If you agree with all or part of the Claim but think someone else was responsible, you can file a ‘Third Party Claim’. If you dispute all or part of a Claim, it will cost $25 to file your reply.
You have twenty (20) days to reply to a Claim (30 days if you live outside the Yukon). If you do not reply to a Claim that has been made against you, the court can issue an order (a “default judgment”) that gives the plaintiff what they have claimed.
No. Most people in Small Claims Court represent themselves.
Your first court appearance will likely be a “pre-trial conference”. In a pre-trial conference, you and the other parties will meet with a judge in a boardroom, and the judge will try to help you resolve the case without going to trial. Before attending a pre-trial conference, you should assemble all your supporting documents and think about how you will present your side of the dispute to the judge. You should also think about what aspects of the case you are willing to negotiate about and compromise on.
If a pre-trial conference does not resolve the dispute, the judge will help the parties determine what evidence they will need to present at trial. The trial will be before a different judge.
A trial in Small Claims Court will look like a trial in any other court. You will have to give sworn testimony and/or call witnesses to testify. You will also have the chance to cross-examine witnesses for the other side. This is your opportunity to establish the facts of the case and, once it is done, you will need to use those facts to argue about why your case should succeed. The judge will be able to help make sure the proceedings run smoothly, but they cannot provide you or the other parties with any assistance in establishing your case.
If you are successful, the party you have claimed against will be ordered to return your property or pay money to you. With a money award, they may be allowed to set up a payment schedule.
If the other party is not complying with an order, it is up to you take steps to recover your money or property. You have to do this within ten years of getting your judgment. In order to recover money, you will need information about the other party’s bank accounts or wages, or about property they own that can be sold. If you do not have this information, you may have to apply to the court for an “examination of debtor”.
Once you have this information, you can have the Sheriff seize your property from the other party and return it to you. If you are owed money, you can use various methods to recover it, including garnishment of bank accounts or wages and seizure and sale of the other party’s property.
The Supreme Court of Yukon is a court of “plenary” jurisdiction, which means it can resolve almost any dispute, even where there is no legislation saying so. However, the Small Claims Court Act gives Small Claims Court sole jurisdiction over disputes about money and property that are under $25,000 (the exception is disputes about land or over wills or damages for defamation).
The Yukon Supreme Court has several Rules and Practice Directions that tell people how to bring and defend claims. There are more procedural rules in Supreme Court than there are in Small Claims Court and they are more complex. It is important to be familiar with these if you have a dispute in the Supreme Court.
There are two forms that can be used to start a Supreme Court proceeding. One is a Statement of Claim and the other is a Petition. Most commonly, it will be a Statement of Claim (Form 1) that you will need. If you do not have a lawyer, when you file a Statement of Claim you will need to set a date for a case management conference. You do this by contacting the Supreme Court Trial Coordinator. This is a court appearance at which a judge will talk with the parties about how they expect the court case to proceed in terms of the issues that need to be resolved and the timing of various steps.
If you are served with a Statement of Claim and you live in the Yukon, it is important that you respond by filing an “Appearance” within 7 days from the day you are served. If you do not do this, you risk not receiving notice of other steps in the proceeding, including any decisions about the claim.
Once you file the Appearance, you have another 14 days to file a Statement of Defence (unless the Court has made an order that extends this time). If you do not have a lawyer, it is probably a good idea to request a case management conference by contacting the Supreme Court Trial Coordinator. A case management conference is a court appearance at which a judge will talk with the parties about how they expect the court case to proceed in terms of the issues that need be resolved and the timing of various steps.
Once the Statement of Claim and Statement of Defence are filed, a Supreme Court action can involve a lot of other steps, including document discovery, requests for admissions, interrogatories, applications about specific issues raised by the claim or defence etc. If you do not have a lawyer, it is a very good idea to ask the court registry about case management. A judge at a case management conference can work with the parties to determine what steps will be taken in your lawsuit and can set timelines for proceeding.
No, but it may feel overwhelming trying to navigate a Supreme Court proceeding on your own. If you are in this situation, it is a good idea to get as much information as you can from legal resources including, for example, the Law Line, the Lawyer Certificate Service run by the Law Society of Yukon, and the Yukon Public Law Library. As well, even if you do not have a lawyer representing you in court, it is a very good idea to speak with one about your situation so that you have a clear and accurate understanding of your specific legal rights and responsibilities.
Most matters in Supreme Court do not proceed to a full trial. As your case advances, there will be multiple opportunities to resolve parts or all of it through processes like judicial settlement conferences or court applications. Even if you do not have a lawyer representing you, it is a very good idea to speak with one about your situation so that you have a clear and accurate understanding of your specific legal rights and responsibilities.
If your case does go to trial, you will want to make sure that you understand the law that applies to your situation and what you and the other party need to prove to be successful. This understanding is critical in determining the evidence you will need to present and how you will argue your case.
There are some good resources online about how to prepare for a trial, and you can also access services like the Law Line and the Yukon Public Law Library for information.
If your award is for money or the return of property and the other party has not complied with it, you can use established procedures for garnishment or writs of seizure.
If the order is that the other party has to do something or that they have to stop doing something and they are not complying, you may be able to have it enforced by the Sheriff or the police. If not, you can return to court and the other party could be subject to a financial penalty for not complying.