BC Court of Appeal Harshly Criticizes Civil Resolution Tribunal for “Flawed” and “Unreasonable” Decision Refusing Right To Counsel
Reasons for judgement were published today by the BC Court of Appeal criticizing BC’s Civil Resolution Tribunal for an “unreasonable” and “flawed” analysis when reviewing a party’s request to be represented by a lawyer.
In today’s case (The Owners, Strata Plan NW 2575 v. Booth) the owners of a strata unit filed a dispute against their Strata Corporation asking for some repair costs to be paid. They filed their claim in BC’s Civil Resolution Tribunal (“CRT”) under their jurisdiction to resolve strata property disputes. The applicants then tagged on a claim seeking a further $25,000 in damages for “loss of enjoyment of life, threats, abuse, and stress” despite the CRT only having Small Claims authority of up to $5,000.
The Strata Corporation had insurance in place which would pay for a lawyer to represent them in the dispute. The CRT limits the use of lawyers and the CRT’s permission is required for a party to be represented in most cases. When the Strata asked for permission to be represented by lawyer this was denied with the CRT stating there was nothing ‘complex’ about the dispute giving rise to the ‘exceptional’ circumstances warranting a lawyer’s involvement. The CRT noted that the Strata could simply get legal advice behind the scenes instead of formally being represented by a lawyer.
The BC Court of Appeal overturned this decision finding the CRT flawed in their characterization of this dispute and their suggestion that legal advice only be utilized behind the scenes. The court noted there were complexities including issues as to whether the CRT could even hear such a dispute and hinted that Charter and Constitutional issues could be in play as well. In sending the matter back for a fresh determination the Court provided the following reasons: