Lawyers in Quebec are preparing themselves for the coming into
force of the new Code of Civil Procedure in January 2016. The focus
seems to be on alternative dispute resolution, joint experts and
the new jurisdictional threshold of the Small Claims Division,
which was raised from $7,000 to $15,000. However, it is important
to note that the jurisdictional threshold of the Court of Quebec
will also increase from $70,000 to $85,000 in January 2016, which
is a significant change. Thus, plaintiffs who were used to reducing
the amount of their claim in order to be heard by the Court of
Quebec will be in a more advantageous position.
Following a recent ruling from the Court of Appeal, those
planning to file a claim before January 2016 may want to adopt
certain strategies in order to limit legal costs and professional
fees. Indeed, the Court had to interpret the Act that provides for the new jurisdictional
threshold for Quebec Small Claims Division, in force since January
2015. According to this Act, if the Court of Quebec was already
"seized" of a case before January 2015, for which the
amount claimed was between $7,000 and $15,000, the matter would
continue before that same court. The Court of Appeal thus had to
determine when a court is considered to be "seized" of a
case. The amount claimed was $8,000, and the demand was filed on
December 23, 2014, i.e. one week before the new threshold came into
force. However, it was served on January 6, 2015, i.e. a few days
after the new threshold came into force. Taking the second date
into consideration, the trial judge granted the defendants'
motion to transfer the case to the Small Claims Division.
The Court of Appeal reversed the decision and ruled that a court
is "seized" of a case when the statement of claim is
filed in the court record, not when it is served on the defendant.
Therefore, the case could not be transferred to the Small Claims
This decision will certainly have an impact on similar
situations that are likely to arise when the Court of Quebec's
jurisdictional threshold is increased to $85,000 in January 2016.
The Court of Appeal itself even said that its ruling will have an
impact on the interpretation of several articles of the new Code
which use the phrase "court seized".
Therefore, if someone intends to file a claim in the next three
months for an amount ranging from $70,000 to $85,000, they would be
well advised to consider the most efficient strategy in order to
avoid fees related to the transfer of their file to the competent
court after January 2016.
Indeed, a plaintiff who filed a claim with the Court of Quebec
before January 2016 might be tempted to take advantage of the new
threshold − once it comes into force − by raising the
amount claimed by way of amendment. However, it is not yet known if
such a strategy will be accepted by the courts. In fact, the case
law of the Small Claims Division indicates that many plaintiffs who
tried to increase their claim to $15,000 were denied by the Court
because they were considered to have waived their right to claim
more than $7,000 at the time. Even though the recovery of small
claims takes place in a particular context, judges of the Court of
Quebec may take the same view with regard to motions to amend
presented to them.
Plaintiffs should do their best to correctly assess the amount
of their claim if it is to be filed before January 2016. A
correctly-assessed amount will allow the plaintiff to seize the
proper court from the start and as a result, avoid the fees
associated with the transfer of the file to the competent court. It
will be interesting to follow how the courts will deal with this
issue in 2016.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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