Casual Legal: The increased monetary limit in the Alberta Court of Justice
By Justine Fay
Reynolds Mirth Richards Farmer LLP
Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Service Provider
On August 1, 2023, the Alberta government increased the maximum amount of damages that can be pursued in the Alberta Court of Justice (formerly the Provincial Court of Alberta). Previously, litigants could file claims up to a maximum of $50,000. That amount has now increased to $100,000. This means municipalities can bring larger claims before the Province’s “small claims” court, but they may also face larger claims in this forum.
There are a few key characteristics of the Alberta Court of Justice (the “ACJ”) for municipalities to keep in mind:
- The ACJ aims to resolve disputes faster than the Court of King’s Bench. In the ACJ, parties typically file their claim and defence, then the Court arranges a mediation or Pre-Trial Conference within a few months (sometimes even weeks). This gives parties an early opportunity for dispute resolution. If a settlement is not reached, then the Court will set procedural steps and book a trial date.
- The ACJ is less formal than the Court of King’s Bench. There are no set procedural timelines beyond filing a claim and defence within the standard timeframes. After that, there is no obligation for the parties to exchange Affidavits of Records or conduct questionings, unless the Court otherwise orders.
- Since there are less established rules for the ACJ, it can be difficult to forecast how the litigation will unfold with certainty. The enhanced flexibility, lower cost, and number of self-represented parties can make this forum unpredictable.
- Finally, there are some types of disputes the ACJ does not have jurisdiction to hear. These claims must be brought before the Court of King’s Bench, no matter the dollar amount:
- There are allegations of defamation, malicious prosecution, or false imprisonment;
- Title to land is brought into question;
- There is a claim against judges, justices of the peace, or peace officers for anything done by that person while executing the duties of their office; or
- There is a claim by a local authority or school board for the recovery of taxes, other than taxes imposed in respect of an interest in land that is itself exempt from taxation.
Overall, municipalities should be mindful of the fact they find themselves involved in more litigation before the ACJ and prepare for both the convenience and unpredictability that the forum may offer.
To access Alberta Municipalities Casual Legal Helpline, Alberta Municipalities members can call toll-free to 1-800-661-7673 or email casuallegal [at] abmunis.ca (casuallegal[at]abmunis[dot]ca) and reach the municipal legal experts at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP. For more information on the Casual Legal Service, please contact riskcontrol [at] abmunis.ca (riskcontrol[at]abmunis[dot]ca), or call 310-MUNI (6864) to speak to Alberta Municipalities Risk Management staff. Any Regular or Associate member of Alberta Municipalities can access the Casual Legal Service.
DISCLAIMER: This article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to provide legal advice. You should seek the advice of legal counsel to address your specific set of circumstances. Although every effort has been made to provide current and accurate information, changes to the law may cause the information in this article to be outdated.