Monday, July 28, 2014

An excellent assessment of when the Alberta Rules of Court will apply to Provincial Court Civil Division Action

In Alberta the lowest civil Court is our Provincial Court Civil Division; affectionately referred to as "Smalls Claims Court" or "PCCD".  This Court serves a very important purpose in allowing parties to "have their day in Court" without the formalities required by our Court of Queens Bench.  Systemically the PCCD promotes a civil resolution of disputes and its existence bolsters our democratic system; that is citizens of Alberta are able to resolve their disputes without resort to extra-judicial conduct.

The current monetary limit which parties may bring before the PCCD is $25,000.00.  Currently, this can be increased by our Provincial Government by Regulation to as much as $50,000.00 if approved by our Lieutenant Governor in Council.  The Provincial Court Act governs all actions commences in PCCD.  Notwithstanding this, the Judges in the PCCD are adept at navigating litigants to a conclusion without the process becoming to onerous; that is, becoming mired in the formalities found in the Rules of Court used in the Court of Queen's Bench.  However, there are instances which occur in PCCD when the Rules of Court need to be applied.  

In the case Cabrera v. Steed, 2013 ABPC 361 Judge Higa adroitly reviewed section 8 of the Provincial Court Act and provided some direction as to when the PCCD should have recourse to the Rules of Court:

[7]        The Applicants in support of their application rely on specific rules of the Rules of Court of Alberta.  The Applicants state there are no legislative provisions contained in the Provincial Court Act, RSA 2000, c. P-31 (“Act”) that addresses the relief sought in this application.  Accordingly, the Applicants submit that pursuant to Section 8 of the Act, the Court may apply the Rules of Court.  Section 8(2) states,
Where the Act or the regulations do not provide for a specific practice or procedure of the Court that is necessary to ensure an expeditious and inexpensive resolution of a matter before the Court, the Court may
(a)   apply the Alberta Rules of Court, and
(b)   modify the Alberta Rules of Court as needed.

In the Cabrera case Judge Higa concluded that in respect of an application to strike an action based on long delay that the Rules of Court should be applied.  Judge Higa applied the rules from the Rules of Court which were applicable and concluded that the action should be struck due to a delay of 3 years.  This decision sheds light on when a Judge in the PCCD will embrace the formalities of the Court of Queen's Bench and is a welcome addition to the PCCD jurisprudence.