On June 1, 2017, the Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) began hearing small claims matters where the amount claimed is $5,000 or less. It’s anticipated that this claim limit will be increased in the next year or so, to $10,000 or more.
The CRT is an administrative tribunal that conducts its processes almost exclusively online. The process moves very quickly, with short mandatory deadlines. Except in unusual circumstances, parties in CRT proceedings are not represented by lawyers.
Your active role in response
As a result, unlike other claims you may have reported to E&O in the past, CRT disputes will require your direct and continual participation in the process, with background support from one of our staff lawyers as required.
If you are served with a CRT dispute notice, which may happen by email, fax, registered mail, courier delivery requiring a signature, or delivery in person, you have only 14 days to file a response. This short deadline makes it crucial that you report any CRT dispute notice to E&O the same day you receive it, so we can evaluate the claim for coverage and assist you in preparing your response.
Following your filing of a response to the dispute notice, the CRT has a mandatory facilitation process, which involves both an exchange of evidence between the parties, and an attempt to resolve the dispute by consensus.
Should no consensus be achieved, or should a party fail to participate altogether in this step, the dispute is referred to an adjudicator. The adjudicator makes a final and binding decision based on the written evidence the parties have submitted to the CRT.
A final decision by the CRT is enforceable in the same manner as a Provincial Court judgment. However, either party may file a notice of objection within 28 days of receiving the final decision. A notice of objection is effectively an appeal, resulting in a new trial in the Provincial Court, this time with live testimony.
Although E&O staff lawyers are not able to directly represent licensees in CRT matters without an Order allowing this, we are able to provide valuable assistance behind the scenes, including preparation of the response that you must file within 14 days of service.
Note that if a response is not filed by the deadline, or if you fail to participate in the evidence exchange/mediation step, the CRT may issue a decision against you based only on the dispute notice and claimant’s evidence.
Deadlines taken seriously
A recent case made clear that the CRT is taking their deadlines seriously. In the case of Cashco PDL Inc. v Hartridge, 2018 BCCRT 32, the CRT issued a decision only three weeks after first emailing a respondent to ask her to participate in the case management phase and not hearing back from her.
Although the respondent had filed a response, when the facilitator emailed her twice to participate in the next step, including warning of the consequences for failing to do so, she received no reply to her emails and was unable to reach the respondent by phone, as it was out of service.
“Parties are told at the beginning of a tribunal proceeding that they must actively participate in the dispute resolution process, and that included providing current contact information,” the adjudicator noted.
Although the facts of this case may be unusual, they do highlight the potential consequences of failing to respond to the deadlines set by the CRT.
If you want coverage from E&O, it is very important that you do not delay in reporting a CRT notice to us so that we will have sufficient time to obtain information from you and prepare a response on your behalf. Failure to do so may result in you being responsible for paying any resulting judgment personally, or for taking steps to have it set aside, at your own expense.