New measures designed to streamline BC Supreme Court procedures and reduce the time and costs required to take cases to trial came into effect on September 1, 2005, and will run as a pilot project until September 1, 2007. The BC Supreme Court registries participating in the project are Vancouver, Victoria, Prince George and Nelson. One of the guiding principles of Rule 68, also known as the Expedited Litigation Project Rule, is to make the amount of pre-trial process, and therefore the cost to the parties, proportionate to the value of the amount in dispute.
Rule 68 applies to all cases commenced after September 1, 2005, where the monetary claim amounts to $100,000 or less, exclusive of interest and costs. The Rule will not apply to family law cases or class actions.
Some of the key features of the Expedited Litigation Project Rule include:
- Limits on pre-trial procedures. For example, examinations for discovery are only allowed by consent or by court order, and are generally limited to two hours.
- Pre-trial document disclosure will be simplified and expedited by limiting the type and quantity of documents that must be listed and produced before trial and requiring that copies of the listed documents be shared with all other parties.
- Jury trials will not be allowed.
- New obligations are imposed on parties to engage in an early and more comprehensive exchange of information. For example, parties are required to exchange lists of witnesses and a written summary of the evidence that they expect each of their witnesses will give at trial.
- Trial management conferences conducted by a judge will be held between 15 and 30 days before trial.
- At a trial management conference, a judge may impose time limits on the direct and cross-examination of witnesses, as well as on opening statements and final submissions
It is anticipated that Rule 68 will make it easier, faster and more affordable for British Columbians to initiate claims in the Supreme Court concerning disputes which might otherwise have been too costly to pursue.