BC Summary Trial (Rule 18A)
BC Supreme Court summary trial rule authorizing a judge in chambers to give judgment based on affidavits or similar evidence.
British Columbia Supreme Court
|1983||Rule 18A introduced|
|July 2007||Draft Rules released|
|January 2010||Projected implementation of new rules|
Rule 18A was introduced in British Columbia in 1983 in response to a concern that Rule 18, governing applications for summary judgment, was often found to be ineffective in that motions for judgment could easily be defeated. Introduction of Rule 18A was meant "to expedite early resolution of cases by authorizing a judge in chambers to give judgment in any case where he can decide disputed questions of fact on affidavits or by any of the other proceedings authorized by the rule unless it would be unjust to decide the issues in such a way" (Summary Disposition at 5).
To reduce unjust delays in the civil justice system, avoid unnecessary costs to the parties and reduce public distrust of the legal system.
Although often referred to as "trial by affidavit", Rule 18A generally permits parties to adduce a variety of forms of evidence. In addition to affidavits, parties may rely on answers to interrogatories, discovery evidence, formal admissions, and statements of expert opinion provided that the statement appears in the proper form or, failing that, is ordered admissible by the court. The usual rules regarding the use of discovery transcripts and interrogatories apply in the summary trial context...
In some cases, the court might expand the scope of permissible evidence to include cross-examination on affidavits, either before the court or before another person. In other cases, a party may be precluded from obtaining one or more of the above forms of evidence because it left it too late in the day to do so. In some cases the court will order that the Rule 18A application proceed absent, for example, the examination for discovery of one party because the requesting party had ample time to conduct the discovery in advance of the hearing but opted not to do so.
The chambers judge should consider the amount involved, the complexity of the matter, and any prejudice due to delay if the matter is set down for trial under the normal procedure, including the costs consequences of so ruling.
Proposed Rule 9-8 (Summary Trial)
The proposed new Rules of Civil Procedure incorporate Rule 18A as Rule 9-8. A new major proposed change to the Rule is that parties may only apply to the court for judgment under this rule if they are authorized to do so by a case plan order.
Comparison to a conventional trial
Although bringing an 18A application does not operate to stay all pre-trial discovery procedures such as document production and examinations for discovery, the court retains discretion to order the postponement of an examination for discovery pending the hearing of an 18A application that has the potential to dispose of the claim or some part of it. However, the court will not do so where the discovery evidence might contradict the documentary evidence on which the moving party relies. Furthermore, because a summary trial application might only dispose of some of the issues between the parties, it should not be used to prevent the other party from presenting their larger case.
Other differences of note are that there are no juries in summary trials, and because there will generally be no viva voce evidence, parties may not subpoena witnesses. In terms of costs awards, the general rule is that where the applicant is unsuccessful and the matter is referred to the trial list, the costs of the application will be costs in the cause. However, where the summary trial court finds that there are exceptional circumstances, such as an application that could be described as frivolous, the court may award costs of the application against the unsuccessful applicant.
In B.C., summary trials proceed in chambers and counsel appear un-robed.