Focus On

B.C. organization offers online small claims resolution tool

Thursday, February 09, 2017 @ 10:59 AM | By Tom Venetis

The B.C. Civil Resolution Tribunal (CRT) is offering an online tool to help small claims litigants settle disputes among themselves.

Solution Explorer is a self-help dispute resolution tool based on the tribunal’s successful Solution Explorer tool for condominium disputes. Currently, the tool is in beta as the CRT awaits final cabinet approval for it to be empowered to take on small claims, which is expected very soon, said Shannon Salter, chair of the CRT.

When approved, the CRT will likely start with lower-value small claims, but will be less than the current $25,000 limit applied to small claims court litigants.

Salter said the interactive tool gives people “bite-sized, plain language pieces of information to help them understand their problem ... and to resolve the dispute themselves. It's free and you don’t need to have a CRT claim to use it. This will help people avoid having to start a CRT claim or go to court.”

The idea is that providing legal information in plain language will help people determine whether their issue is a legal complaint and what their rights are. It provides resources to settle a dispute, such as easy-to-fill-out demand letters, for example.

Solutions Explorer will help litigants deal with small claims disputes over construction and renovation, employment, goods and services for buyers/sellers, insurance, loans and debts, personal injury and property issues.

If the litigants cannot come to a resolution, “you use the [Solutions Explorer] tool to file a CRT claim and it will go to mediation,” Salter added. “A mediator will help them resolve their dispute and if they can't do that then the agreement can be changed into a CRT order which is enforceable as a court order.”

Salter said an advantage of the tool is that those in remote and rural areas, and those without the means to afford a lawyer, now have access to a mediation process, providing they have access to the Internet.

“It really comes from our core philosophy of bringing the justice system to where people are and around their lives,” Salter continued. “We know that people are busy. They have jobs and family obligations; they may not live near a courthouse or have easy access to legal services such as lawyers or a mediator because of where they live or the cost. So the idea is to use technology to democratize access to the justice system.

"In B.C., 92 per cent of people use the Internet every day. If people are comfortable with the Internet and are comfortable using technology, this is a great way to help people connect with legal information they need.”