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In Medicine Hat, transactions occur daily involving exchange of money for goods or services. These transactions may take place between companies, individuals, or a combination of the two. Some might involve formal contracts, while others involve no more than a simple handshake. In any event, there is always the possibility that one of these transactions may not be carried out as expected or promised. The Small Claims process in Alberta is an available route for those who find themselves in a legal dispute as a result of such a situation.
Pursuing a Provincial Court Civil, or Small Claims, action may sound like a complicated procedure, but it is more achievable than many may think. There are several routine steps involved in a Small Claims action:
- Civil Claim: The first step is to file a claim at Provincial Court. This sets out basic facts of your specific situation, including the compensation you are seeking and your reasons for making the claim. Once your claim has been completed and filed, it must also be served on the other party.
- Dispute Note: The other party has an opportunity to defend against your claim. To do so, they would file a Dispute Note at Provincial Court. Failure by the other party to file this document within 20 days of receiving your claim may end this process, and result in judgment in your favour by default.
- Mediation or Pre-Trial Conference: Assuming the other party does defend their position by filing a Dispute Note, the court requires the parties to attend mandatory Mediation and/or Pre-Trial Conference. These are informal meetings of the parties involving an assigned mediator or judge, respectively, and provide an opportunity for settling the matter without proceeding to trial.
- Trial: If all efforts at settlement fail, a trial may be held. Trials may be brief, or could extend across days. At trial, both parties are given the opportunity to present their arguments before the court, which will include giving evidence and may include calling witnesses. A judge will make a final decision about your claim once both sides have presented their arguments.
There are some additional considerations to keep in mind when pursuing a Small Claims action. For example, Provincial Court deems that a Small Claims process cannot be pursued for an amount in excess of $50,000. This is a recent change from the previous limit of $25,000.
Another potential obstacle in the Small Claims process is timing. In Alberta, the Limitations Act states that a claim must be initiated no more than two years after it arose. Therefore, if at least two years have passed, the Small Claims process may no longer be available in your situation.
Assuming your situation is not subject to these limitations, the Small Claims process may be a worthwhile pursuit to correct an unsatisfactory transaction. The Small Claims process has been created in a user-friendly manner, designed for individuals and companies to pursue without necessarily requiring legal representation. The Alberta Courts website provides further literature, videos, and forms to assist in understanding the Small Claims process. The clerks at the Medicine Hat Provincial Court are also knowledgeable, friendly, and qualified to assist in explaining the process or completing the Small Claims forms.
Of course, if at any time during the Small Claims process you have questions or require legal assistance, please contact one of our lawyers at (403) 527-4411 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org