Faux Lawyer on the Loose
January 31, 2012 12:59 PM   Subscribe

Any tips on filing (and winning) a case in small claims court in Vancouver?

No written contract, but an email trail that should help a judge get the picture: in July 2011 a guy commissioned me to speak at his public event, for a fee and the purchase of 30 books. I hand-delivered the books and did the appearance, but he won't pay the $1,051 bill. (I thought we were close in November 2011 when he finally blamed "bookkeeping issues" for the delay, which I suppose happens when you have offshore companies in places like Surinam, but alas.)

Anyone been through the small claims court system and learned something I need to know?
posted by ecourbanist to Law & Government (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I've done it - and in Vancouver. I made a binder and put in subsections so that I could find any document. I had an index, table of documents, and a detailed timeline. If anyone mentioned anything, I could easily flip to the day or the page or the related email. I had notes in each section to explain what pages would back up any points that could be raised, too.

Make sure you have sent a demand letter with a reasonable amount of time to pay. Note any interest charges that are accruing. Use Xpress Post with signature required. (I suggest using someone else's name to send the document, so that they don't see it and not open it.)

File in small claims. After 6 months to 18 months, they will probably send you to mediation. You basically meet with a mediator who will hold a mini trial and try to see if you guys can work something out.

Make sure your filing says that they have to pay your filing fees and so on.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 1:19 PM on January 31, 2012

Consider whether it's worth your time - once you get through the process, you then have to get the guy to pay. There are a few ways to do that - seize and sell land and property, garnishee his wages - but it takes time and effort (and money) to work your way through the process. I know I would hate to see some scumbag walk away with my money, but think about how much you're actually out of pocket (your cost of the books) and what you could do with the time that it will take you to engage in this process. A lot of people who are successful in the civil legal system nonetheless feel victimized by it.
posted by Dasein at 1:26 PM on January 31, 2012

I've done this a few times, in BC as well.

2 out of the 3 times, just filing the claim was enough for them to pay. Make sure you include the cost of filing (and serving) in the claim.

The 3rd time (the local Wal-mart), they called me and tried to settle for a much lower amount. I refused, and now have a court date.

Filing is very easy. Well, it was easy at the small-town BC courthouse here, anyway. The court workers helped me with the forms, etc.

Is the party that owes you money a corporation, well-known business, etc? If so, they will be motivated to pay up just to keep their name off the court documents.
posted by MiG at 1:45 PM on January 31, 2012

Figure out how much of your time is worth $1051. You might end up losing money even if you win, based on how much work you need to do.
posted by twblalock at 2:37 PM on January 31, 2012


These government websites have all the nuts and bolts. You'll want to familiarize yourself with the rules BEFORE approaching the registry staff. Don't waste their time with questions you could answer by doing some due diligence; they're not there to give legal advice.
posted by Pomo at 3:44 PM on January 31, 2012

Just have your stuff together, it shouldn't be a big deal. If there's anything more complicated than him admitting that he hasn't yet paid ("Well, uh..."), you'll want to have everything printed out and with you, but there's a pretty cut and dried process for figuring whether someone should-have and/or did-not get paid. If he blamed the bookeeping issues to you in email or whatever, and you can print that out in some way, that's pretty much an admission that the amount is valid, I would say, as a layperson fake lawyer. But! My experience in US small claims is that it's just a very structured he said/she said. It's not going to be like The Judge Screamo Show.
posted by rhizome at 6:40 PM on January 31, 2012

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