Canada’s justice system is set up in such a way that a person is entitled to represent themselves in a court of law, should they wish to do so. However, the process is complex, it is often confusing, and it very technical. The amount of information alone can be overwhelming to deal with – not to mention knowing and deciding what can and should be done with that information.
Consider the phrase “prove it in court”. It is a relatively common phrase, and most people have a general idea what it means: Essentially, a litigant must convince a judge and/or jury why their position is the one that the courts should accept. At first, this may seem relatively straightforward, but few take the time to extrapolate what is actually required to prove something in a court of law. For example, what is the key legal issue that must be proved in order to be successful? Whose job is it to prove it? What is or isn’t permitted while attempting to prove it? And how do you know when you’ve met the threshold of proof – or where that threshold even lies?
It is always recommended that anyone involved in a legal action seek professional guidance. Here are some common pitfalls to be aware of during the litigation process.
When a Corporation is Involved
While individuals are entitled to represent themselves in court, it is important to understand that corporations are considered separate legal entities. This is true even in the case of a closely held corporation with only one owner and director. This means that if a corporation is involved in a lawsuit, it will be necessary to involve a lawyer if the matter is in the Court of Queen’s Bench.
Every step in the litigation process has a deadline to be aware of, whether it is a deadline to start something, file something, respond to something, or something else. Even before a lawsuit begins, there are deadlines that apply, and anytime a deadline is missed, the lawsuit is in jeopardy.
Sometimes these deadlines are clearly printed and are easy to find (a Statement of Claim clearly states how long the defendant has to file a defence) but sometimes knowledge of Alberta’s Rules of Court is necessary.
Rules of Court
The Provincial Court Act governs lawsuits in the Provincial Court of Alberta (sometimes referred to as small claims court) and the Alberta Rules of Court (the “Rules”) govern lawsuits in the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and the Court of Appeal of Alberta. Both have been established to try to ensure that the court process is as fair as possible, and that all parties receive fair and equal treatment.
The Rules set out the procedure of a lawsuit, including the timelines and deadlines for each stage. They describe who has standing to bring an action or address the court, the various options that are available to whom and at what stage. There are even rules that govern what kind of evidence can or cannot be put before the court and how that is to be done. These Rules must be followed. If they aren’t, the consequences may include payment of costs, dismissal of the claim, or some other penalty or complication to the lawsuit.
Not every wrongdoing is actionable in court, so it is important that an argument is grounded in law, otherwise the court system will not be of any use. For every wrongdoing, there is a test or criteria established to help determine whether that wrongdoing warrants any compensation; for example, every act of fraud contains an element of deception, but that does not mean that every act of deception amounts to fraud.
The criteria for illegal actions are set out in legislation and in past court cases. Before commencing an action, it is important to know exactly what the claim is and what legal argument supports that claim.
Even if a decision is made to represent oneself in court it is always best to consult with a lawyer prior to doing so.
This article is not intended to be legal advice and is for information purposes only. There may be certain exceptions to the above article, so please contact our office to discuss your matter specifically at 780-963-8181.