Civil Litigation Basics

Last Reviewed: March 2023 Reviewed by: JES Download

What is Civil Litigation?

Litigation is the process of going to court to settle a dispute. Civil law deals with relationships between individuals. In law, an individual can be a person, a company or an organization. Civil law cases involve one individual filing a claim against another individual, based on either federal or provincial laws. Examples include contract disputes, landlord-tenant disputes, employment disputes, and divorce.

If someone says that they are going to “sue” someone, that means they are planning civil litigation. In addition to “suing someone”, a civil litigation case can be called:

  • An action
  • A matter
  • A lawsuit
  • A proceeding
  • A case

Proof in civil litigation is on a “Balance of probabilities”. This means that a judge must be satisfied something probably happened. This is a lower standard than in criminal litigation. There, facts must be proven “Beyond a reasonable doubt”.

Much civil litigation is concerned with contracts or torts. If you cause someone damage or breach a contract, you can be sued and forced to pay to compensate for the harm done, or made to complete the contract. For example, if a store owner lets their stairs become slippery and someone slips and hurts themselves, that may be the tort of negligence and the store owner may have to pay for the injury.

Key Terms

A “tort” is an action that can lead to civil liability. In general, a tort occurs when someone intentionally or negligently causes damage to another person or their property. Tort law is mostly concerned with providing a victim with damages as compensation for their loss, rather than punishing the wrongdoer as in criminal law. Examples of torts include battery, sexual harassment, trespass, defamation, and negligence.

Learn More

The British Columbia Supreme Court has helpful information for self represented litigants including resources on getting help, learning about the law and understanding court procedures. Find it here.

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