Glossary

a
Acceptance of Offer
A document used to accept a formal offer to settle.
Action
A lawsuit started by a notice of civil claim. It is the plaintiff’s lawsuit against the defendant for the protection or enforcement of a right, or the prevention or redress of a wrong.
Administrative decision maker or administrative tribunal
A specialized body or person that is given the authority by legislation to administer the law and government policy.
Affidavit
A written statement setting out facts and evidence. The statement is sworn to or solemnly affirmed by the person making those statements before a person authorized to administer oaths.
Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)
Ways to resolve a dispute outside of the court system. Arbitration, mediation and negotiation are all examples of alternative dispute resolution processes.
Application Record
A bound copy of all the documents that will be referred to during a chambers application; it must include the documents of both the applicant and the respondent including a title page, an index, a copy of the filed notice of application, a copy of each application response, and a copy of every filed affidavit and pleading.
Arbitration
A method of dispute resolution involving one or more neutral third parties called adjudicators. The adjudicator receives evidence and arguments from both parties and has the authority to make a binding decision to resolve the dispute.
b
Balance of Probabilities
The burden of proof in a civil trial. The court must be convinced the evidence shows it is more likely than not that one side is right.
Bill of Costs
A document setting out the amount owed by one party to another for legal costs incurred in a lawsuit which are calculated based on the tariff of costs in the Rules of Court.
Book of Authorities
A bound book containing all of the statutes and case law the party is relying on to support his or her case. Copies are made for the opposing parties and the court.
Book of Documents
A bound book containing all of the documents that are to be presented as evidence at trial. Copies are made for the opposing parties and the court.
c
Case Law
Decisions of courts relating to a particular matter or issue. Case law from the same level of court may be persuasive, but the court does not have to follow it. Case law from a higher court is binding on the lower court. For example, the British Columbia Supreme Court must follow the decisions made by the British Columbia Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. Case law is also called jurisprudence.
Case Plan Order
The order that the judge makes at the case planning conference, including discovery issues, settlement, applications to court, length of trial and so on.
Case Plan Proposal
Sets out the party’s proposal for how the case should proceed, including discovery of documents, examinations for discovery, dispute resolution procedures, expert witnesses, witness lists, and estimated length of trial.
Case Planning Conference
A conference with both parties conducted by a judge or master. The purpose of the conference is to discuss matters relating to the case, obtain orders for how the case should proceed, dispute resolution options, dates for exchange of documents, electronic document procedures, limits on examination for discovery, and information on the use of experts.
Cause of Action
The legal claim against the other party.
Chambers
A type of hearing that is different from a full trial. Evidence is presented in the form of affidavits. Lawyers and the judge do not wear robes.
Chambers Applications
In a proceeding started by notice of civil claim, chambers applications usually deal with pre-trial procedural issues that come up as the case progresses.
Civil Litigation
A lawsuit that is brought to enforce, redress, or protect a private or civil right. It is initiated by the person who actually suffered the effects of the harm. Civil litigation usually deals with torts, contracts and other private disputes.
Consent Dismissal Order
A document that tells the court the case between the parties has settled and the parties agree to have the court dismiss the claim.
Contempt of Court
Disobeying an order of the court or conduct that interferes with the administration of justice. It may be punishable by fine or imprisonment.
Costs
Money spent to carry out or defend a lawsuit which a party is allowed to recover. The unsuccessful party is usually ordered to pay a part of the expenses associated with the successful party’s litigation.
Counterclaim
A document that sets out any claim the defendant might have against the plaintiff or another party related to the lawsuit started by the plaintiff. It is an independent action raised by a defendant that can be tried with the plaintiff’s claim. The counterclaim acts as the defendant’s statement of claim against those parties.
Court Forms
Official court documents that must be used when you bring a dispute to court. Forms can be found in Appendix A of the Rules of Court.
Court of Appeal
The province’s highest court. This court hears appeals from the Supreme Court.
Court Registry
The official record keeper of the pleadings and all other documents that are filed in relation to a case. They are located in courthouses all over the province. Each court registry maintains its own files for each action begun in that registry.
Cross-Examination
Where the opposing party asks your witness questions. It is used to weaken the effect of the witness’s testimony, to discredit the witness and to elicit evidence in favour of the cross-examining party.
d
Damages
An amount of money to compensate for loss or injury.
Default Judgment
A final judgment that is awarded when one party has not complied with the Rules or fails to defend the claim against him or her.
Defendant
The person sued in a civil lawsuit started by a notice of civil claim.
Direct Examination
Where a party asks their witness questions. Direct examination is also called examination-in-chief.
Disbursements
Out-of-pocket expenses incurred in lawsuit (e.g., court filing fees).
Discontinuance
The termination of a lawsuit by the plaintiff or petitioner using a document called a notice of discontinuance.
Discovery of Documents
Disclosure by the parties (to each other) of information and documents that relate to the lawsuit. Documents can be photographs, films, sound recordings, any record of a permanent or semipermanent character, or any information stored or recorded by any means.
Discovery Process
The way the parties in an action started by a notice of civil claim discover what happened in the case. It allows the parties to collect information in order to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the case. The process can include: discovery of documents, examinations for discovery, interrogatories, pre-trial examination of witnesses, and notices to admit.
e
Evidence
Oral and written statements, information and objects presented to the court to prove the facts that are necessary to a claim or to a defence. It can be given by witnesses or can be presented to the court in the form of documents or other things.
Examinations for Discovery
A meeting where one party asks an opposing party a series of questions. The examination takes place in the presence of a court reporter who records each question and its answer and then provides a transcript (a written record) of the examination. The party answering questions must take an oath or give a solemn affirmation that they will tell the truth. No judges or court officials are present during examinations for discovery.
Exhibit
A document, record, or object admitted as evidence in court or before a tribunal. A document attached to and made a part of an affidavit.
Expert
A witness who gives evidence to help the court understand technical and scientific issues raised by the pleadings. He or she may give opinions in areas that would not normally be within the judge’s knowledge. The expert must be shown to possess the necessary skill and qualifications in the area in which the opinion is sought. An expert can give evidence in person or by writing a report called an expert report.
Expert Report
A report by an expert that includes the expert’s qualifications, the instructions given to the expert about the lawsuit, and the expert’s opinion.
f
Fast Track Litigation
A shortened litigation process that applies to claims under $100,000 or claims that can be tried in 3 days or less.
Federal Court
This court has jurisdiction over all matters involving federal laws and tribunals.
File
Taking a document to the court registry to be stamped and placed in the court file.
Final Judgment
A court’s final decision about the rights and obligations of the parties in a case.
Final Submission
A statement made after all the evidence has been presented at trial. A party, or their lawyer, summarizes the fact they have proven and points out anything the other party has failed to prove. A party may also discuss any case law that supports their case. It is also called a closing statement.
Formal Offer to Settle
A document used to make an offer to settle according to the Rules. Sets out what the party is willing to accept or do to settle the case. It is not filed with the court or mentioned to the judge until after a judgment is released.
h
Hearsay
Testimony that is given by a witness who relates what others have said.
i
Indigent Status
Status granted by the court to individuals who cannot afford to pay the fees required to file court documents. Individuals who cannot afford to pay court fees may apply to the court for this status.
Inherent Jurisdiction
A power vested in the court that is does not come from a statute or law, but from the very nature of the court as a superior court. Courts use this power to maintain their authority and to prevent the abuse of court processes.
Interlocutory Application
One party asks the court to make an order, which in most cases is not a final one. These applications often deal with issues that arise in the course of a lawsuit that require a court order.
Interlocutory Judgment
A judgment that determines a preliminary or side issue in the case, but does not finally decide the case.
Interlocutory Order
An order that relates to an intermediate issue in the case. It usually directs one of the parties to carry out a step in the proceeding before the trial is heard.
Interrogatories
A series of written questions addressed to one party by the other party to be answered in writing. The questions are usually straightforward to answer. The answers must be provided in the form of an affidavit.
j
Jointly and Severally Liable
Where two or more individuals are liable for the same wrong the person wronged may bring an action against all of the individuals, or against one of the individuals for the full amount.
Judicial review
A court’s power to review the actions of other branches or levels of government as provided for by law. A court’s review of a lower court’s or an administrative body’s factual or legal findings.
l
Legal Advice
Advice from a lawyer about the law as it applies to a particular case. It usually includes information about whether a party should do something or why a party should do something.
Legal Information
General information about the law or how to do something in a lawsuit.
Limitation Period
The period of time that a party is allowed to wait before starting a case. The Limitation Act sets out different time periods for different types of cases. Most limitation periods range from 2 to 6 years and start on the day the event being sued over happened, or the day the party found out about his or her possible claim. After a limitation period has passed a lawsuit cannot be started.
Liquidated Damages
A claim where the amount sued for can easily be determined by referring to documents or other evidence.
List of Documents
A list of all the documents that relate to the issues in a case and are in a party’s possession or under a party’s power and control. The list also includes any documents that may be privileged. This list is provided to the other parties in the discovery process and tells them where the documents can be examined.
Litigation
The process of bringing disputes to court to have them resolved by a judge on the basis of evidence presented by those involved in the dispute.
m
Master
A judicial officer of the Supreme Court who may decide certain matters before or after a trial. Masters hear most chambers applications, but generally speaking cannot give a judgment which finally resolves a case.
Material Fact
A fact that is essential to the case/defence. It tends to establish an issue that is raised.
Mediation
A non-binding process in which a neutral third party with no decision-making authority attempts to facilitate a settlement between disputing parties. Mediation is usually a private, voluntary dispute resolution process.
n
Negotiation
Any form of non-facilitated communication that allows the parties to discuss the steps they need to take to resolve the dispute. Negotiations can take place between the parties directly, or through others (such as lawyers) acting on behalf of the parties.
Neutral evaluation
A process where parties can obtain a non-binding, reasoned evaluation of their case from an experienced, neutral third party.
Notice of Application
A document that tells the parties and the court the date of a chambers application.
Notice of Civil Claim
A document that notifies both the court and the people who are being sued that a lawsuit has started. This document sets out the facts of the claim, the legal consequences arising from those facts, the remedy or relief the plaintiff is asking for and where the trial is going to be held.
Notice of Withdrawal of Offer
A document that withdraws a formal offer to settle.
Notice to Admit
A document that contains information and documents relevant to the case. This document is sent to the other party who will then admit or deny the information and documents. Information and documents that have been admitted by the other party do not need to be proven by a witness at trial.
o
Opening Statement
A statement made by each party at the beginning of the trial. The party or their lawyer gives a brief overview of the issues and the evidence/facts they intend to prove.
Order
A ruling made by a judge or master that tells a party to do something or not do something. It can also refer to the document that sets out the decision of the judge or master.
Originating Application
A lawsuit started with a petition.
p
Petition
A document that starts an originating application. It sets out the basic facts of the event or transaction, the legal consequences and the remedy or relief the petitioner is asking for.
Petition Respondent
A person who defends a lawsuit started by a petition.
Petitioner
A person who starts a lawsuit by a petition.
Plaintiff
A person who starts a lawsuit by a notice of civil claim.
Pleadings
A written statement of the facts that a party relies on to support their claim or defence. These documents must be filed with the court to start and respond to a lawsuit.
Pre-trial Examination of Witnesses
This process is used if there is a witness to the proceeding who is not a party to the action. The examination takes place in the presence of a court reporter and a transcript is provided. The witness must give an oath or solemn affirmation that he or she will tell the truth during the examination.
Privileged Document
A document the other party is not entitled to see because it was created during confidential communications between a lawyer and his or her client, or was created to help conduct the litigation.
Pro Bono Legal Advice
Legal services donated to individuals free of charge.
Process Server
A professional document server.
Proportionality
The number and length of legal processes allowed is proportionate to the amount involved, the importance of the issues in dispute, and the complexity of the case.
Provincial Court
The lower level trial court which deals with small claims, family, youth criminal offenders, criminal and traffic matters.
r
Registered Office
A head office or chief place of business. It is the office where documents may be served on the company and where certain documents and books must be kept. The address of this office is on file with the provincial Registrar of Companies.
Regulations
Statutory instruments that usually set out practical information or procedures relating to a particular statute. They provide specific instructions about how to implement the statute and tend to change more often than the statute itself.
Release
A document signed by the parties to acknowledge that they are giving up all claims in connection with the legal dispute. It is usually signed as part of a settlement.
Requisition
A document that asks the court registry to do something. For example, a document that asks the registry to search the court file for a response to the notice of civil claim.
Response
A document that sets out the facts of the defence. It responds directly to the allegations in the notice of civil claim.
Rules of Court
Rules that govern the practice and procedure of the Supreme Court. They provide guidelines for each step in the litigation and set time limits for when certain steps must be completed.
s
Serving a Document
Bringing a legal document to the attention of the parties to a lawsuit. The Rules set out certain procedures that must be followed when serving a document.
Settlement
An agreement between the parties in a dispute. A settlement can end or avoid a court proceeding. It usually involves the payment of money.
Small Claims Court
A division of the Provincial Court for claims under $25,000.
Standing
A party’s right to make a legal claim or seek judicial enforcement of a duty or right.
Statutes
Laws created by the Parliament of Canada or the Provincial Legislature. They are also called legislation or Acts.
Style of Proceeding
The top part of every court document that identifies the registry number and location, the level of court and the names of the parties. It is how the court registry identifies the file. It is sometimes called the style of cause.
Subpoena
A document that notifies a witness that he or she is required to attend in court to give evidence at a trial and that failure to do so may result in a charge of contempt of court.
Summary Judgment
A different way to obtain a final judgment without having to go through a full trial. A summary judgment application is usually only made in those cases where it is clear that the other party cannot win because he or she has no case or defence.
Summary Trial
A trial based on affidavit and other evidence that can result in a judgment even if there is a dispute between the parties about the facts behind the claim or the defence to the claim. This is different than a summary judgment which is only given if there is no outstanding issue that needs to be resolved.
Supreme Court
The higher level trial court. This court also hears appeals from the Provincial Court, and sometimes reviews the decisions of certain provincial tribunals and public decision-making bodies.
Supreme Court of Canada
The highest level of court in Canada. This court hears appeals from decisions of the Federal Court and from decisions of all the appeal courts of the provinces.
t
Torts
The legal term for injury or harm for which damages may be obtained. Someone who commits a tort is called a tortfeasor.
Trial
The hearing of the case before a judge where evidence is presented, arguments are submitted and a final judgment is made.
Trial Brief
A bound book of documents containing a summary of the issues, a list of witnesses and the evidence they will give (and the time they will take at trial), a list of expert reports, time estimates for opening and closing statements, the order or result each party is seeking, and any case law or legislation that will be used at trial.
Trial Certificate
A short document that states the party submitting the form will be ready to proceed with the trial on the date scheduled, the current estimate of the length of the trial, that the party submitting the form has completed all examinations for discovery, and a statement that the trial management conference has been held.
Trial Management Conference
A meeting between the parties, conducted by a judge that is held at least 28 days before the start of trial. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss how the trial will proceed, including amendment of pleadings, admitted facts, documents to be admitted at trial, witnesses, adjournments, and so on.
Trial Record
A bound book that contains all the pleadings and other documents to be put before the court at the trial. Copies are made for the opposing parties and the court.
u
Undertaking
A promise or assurance that a person will do what is asked of them.
Unliquidated Damages
An amount claimed that must be assessed and determined by a judge. For example; a claim for pain and suffering arising from an injury.
w
Withdrawal
When a defendant withdraws his or her defence using a document called a notice of withdrawal.
Without Prejudice
Information contained in a document or communicated between the parties that cannot be used against that party in court if the parties are unable to settle the matter. Generally, negotiations to settle a dispute are conducted on a “without prejudice” basis.
Witness
A person who gives evidence in a proceeding orally under oath or affirmation, or by affidavit.