Attorney General announces changes to Supreme Court rules
On July 10, 2023 amendments to the Supreme Court Civil Rules and Supreme Court Family Rules were announced. The proposed changes aim to refine and clarify the rules governing civil proceedings in British Columbia, addressing aspects such as addresses for service, trial briefs, trial management conferences, and various forms and procedures.
Important Proposed changes to the B.C. Civil Rules to take effect Sept. 1, 2023 include the following:
- Rule 1-1 (1) introduces a definition of “business day” as a day when court registries are open for business.
- Rule 4-1 (1) is repealed and replaced, specifying that a party represented by a lawyer must provide both an email address and an accessible office address as addresses for service. Rule 4-1 (1.1) outlines the required addresses for service for unrepresented parties.
- Rule 4-1 (2) is amended to include references to Rule 4-1 (1.1) and allows for an additional email address.
- Rule 4-1 (3) is amended to change pronouns and references to Rule 4-1 (1) or (1.1).
- Rule 4-2 adds a subrule (8), stating that if a document is served by email and the recipient requests a copy to be sent to another address, the serving party must provide the copy within seven days of the request.
- Rule 5-1 (4) and Rule 5-2 (4) are amended to update references to form numbers.
- Rule 8-1 is amended to redefine “application respondent” and specify the timeline for providing the application record to the registry.
- Rule 12-1.1 is added, requiring the plaintiff to file a trial brief at least 56 days before the scheduled trial date, with corresponding requirements for other parties of record.
- Rule 12-2 outlines when a trial management conference is required and specifies the date, place, and means of the conference.
- Various amendments are made to Rule 12-3, Rule 12-4, Rule 13-1, Rule 16-1, Rule 23-1, Rule 23-4, Rule 23-5, Rule 23.1-1, Rule 25-5, Form 17, Form 17.1, and Form 17.2, including updates to references, wording, and formatting.
Email to replace fax service for lawyers?
Currently, many law firms in BC still use fax transmission to effect formal service of documents. When I started as a lawyer in BC in 1995 fax service was just becoming accepted. After September 1, 2023 every litigant represented by a lawyer must provide both an email address and an accessible office address as addresses for service. Considering most fax systems are built into the digital infrastructure service by email is a small but profound change.
The proposed changes state that if a party does not have an accessible address within 30 kilometers of the registry, they must provide either a postal address in British Columbia or a fax number as an address for service. Therefore, it appears that lawyers in BC will still be able to effect service by fax in a civil action after September 1, 2023, as long as the party does not have an accessible address within the specified distance. This may be useful for law firms that do not have a physical office.
Deadline to file trial briefs Changed
Trial brief will now have to be files by the plaintiff 56 days, and not 28 days, before the trial. This puts more pressure on claimants to be prepared for trial well in advance of the date. Although better for the defendant, this new rule will likely further increase the costs of trial preparation for claimants. It is however a change that appears to be in line with the practice of many lawyers that currently book trial management conference well in advance of the trial.