An Overview of Civil Cases

Civil cases are dealt with in the Court of Queen’s Bench.  Administrative Tribunals also deal with certain civil matters.  For example, the Residential Tenancies Branch and Residential Tenancies Commission deal with disputes between residential landlords and tenants.  The Appeal Commission deals with appeal of workers compensation matters.

Cases involving amounts less than $15,000 may be heard in Small Claims Court.

However, Small Claims Court cannot deal with the following:

  • disputes between residential landlords and tenants
  • disputes about land
  • wills and estate matters
  • family matters
  • malicious prosecution
  • false imprisonment
  • libel or slander
  • wrongful dismissal
  • allegations of wrongdoing by a judge or justice.

We will focus on cases dealt with by the Court of Queen’s Bench. Some of the types of matters that could result in a civil suit include:

  • Torts (including negligence and malpractice)
  • Contract disputes
  • Insurance disputes
  • Property disputes
  • Disputes over wills and estates.

Torts are civil wrongs that often result in things like personal injury or damage to property.

In a civil case, there is no presumption of innocence.  Plaintiffs do not have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Plaintiffs only have to prove their case “on a balance of probabilities.” – that it is more likely than not.  A Plaintiff is the person who starts the court case.  The Defendant is the person being sued.

Most cases do not go to trial.  It may be possible to compromise or settle a dispute.

The possibility of compromise or settlement should always be considered.  The use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) or mediation should also be considered.

The basic stages in a civil suit are:

  • Filing and service of pleadings
  • Discovery
  • Pre-trial conference
  • Trial

Note: mediation or settlement or judicially-assisted dispute resolution or alternative dispute resolution can happen at any time. Various motions can happen any time after the filing of pleadings.


Filing and Service of Pleadings

If the civil suit was started by the plaintiff filing a statement of claim, the pleadings consist of:

  • Statement of claim (Form 14A)
  • Statement of defence (Form 18A)
  • Reply, if any, (Form 25A)

Pleadings are supposed to accomplish the following:

  • Provide notice to the other party of the case to be met.
  • Clearly define the issues and narrow them for trial.
  • Create a formal public record of the issues involved.

Generally speaking:

  • Pleadings should contain a concise statement of the facts
  • Pleadings should not contain evidence
  • Pleadings should also set out what outcome each of the parties is asking for, for example money compensation (damages)

The Statement of Claim sets out:

  • Who the parties are, a brief description of the relationship and the facts that resulted in the claim,
  • The claim against the defendant, including facts about what happened,
  • What damage or loss occurred as a result,
  • The laws that the plaintiff relies on,
  • What relief the plaintiff is asking the court to award,
  • Gives notice to the defendant, explaining that a legal claim has been made against the defendant,
  • Tells how much time the defendant has to file a statement of defence in court,
  • Briefly explains how to defend against the proceeding in the court or how to proceed if they want to pay the claim and don’t want to dispute it,
  • Notifies the defendant that if they do not file a defence, that a judgment against the defendant can be made in favour of the plaintiff.

There are many, very complicated rules about pleadings.  For that reason, a lawyer should draft pleadings.

Either party, can ask the court to strike out or expunge all or part of a pleading or other document.  The reasons for doing this include that the pleadings:

  • may prejudice or delay the fair trial of the action;
  • are scandalous, frivolous or vexatious;
  • are an abuse of the process of the court; or
  • the pleadings do not disclose a reasonable cause of action or defence.

To start a civil action, or lawsuit, the plaintiff files a Statement of Claim (using form 14A) in the Court of Queen’s Bench.  The filing fee is $225.  The plaintiff then has it served on (delivered to) the defendant.  This can be done by either the Plaintiff personally serving the Defendant or by having a process server serve the documents.  Process servers are people who serve court documents.

Once a defendant receives a statement of claim, he or she, ideally with the help of a lawyer, must decide what to do next.

The options are:

  • File in court and serve a Statement of Defence (Form 18A) on the plaintiff,
  • Make a motion in court to strike out the plaintiff’s claim if there are reasons for doing this,
  • Attempt settlement through the plaintiff’s lawyers, mediation or judicially-assisted or alternative dispute resolution,
  • Agree to pay the claim and court costs.

After the defendant files and serves the statement of defence, the plaintiff may file and serve a Reply in Form 25A in certain circumstances.

A reply should be filed only if the plaintiff intends to prove a version of the facts different from that pleaded in the defendant’s defence, unless it has already been pleaded in the statement of claim.  This would happen when new facts are raised in the defendant’s statement of defence.


Discovery is the process of learning about the other party’s case and sharing information about your case.

In discovery of documents, each side must swear in an affidavit what relevant documents and other pieces of evidence they have. The parties must make this evidence available for the other party to examine (unless it falls under an exception of privileged evidence).

In Examinations for Discovery, each side’s lawyer also conducts interviews with the opposing side’s witnesses and parties (this is called “oral examination for discovery”). The interviews are recorded and can be used at trial.

Pre-Trial Conference

At the pre-trial conference the judge makes sure the case is ready for trial.


The following is the typical order of proceedings in a trial:

  • The lawyers make opening statements about their cases. (The plaintiff’s lawyer goes first. The lawyer for the defendant can make his or her opening statement after the plaintiff’s lawyer or at the start of his or her case, after the lawyer for the plaintiff is finished presenting his or her whole case),
  • Direct examination of witnesses,
  • Reading in of evidence from examinations for discovery (if applicable)
  • Cross-examination of witnesses,
  • Re-examination of witnesses (if new matters were raised in the cross-examination),
  • Rebuttal evidence (if applicable)
  • Closing arguments,
  • Judgment and awarding of costs

The judge may deliver the decision orally or in a written judgment, or orally in court with a written decision later.

Written transcripts of court proceedings are available from the court for a fee, and it is possible to just order the judge’s oral reasons for the decision/order. Parties must request a transcript cost estimate before ordering the transcript.  You would generally only order a transcript if you were thinking about appealing the decision.

A party can ask the court for court costs to be paid by the opposing party (covering all or part of the various legal costs associated with the litigation. The costs rarely cover all of your expenses.  They usually only cover about 20 to 25%).

The judge will assess and has the discretion to award costs, depending on a variety of factors unique to the situation (including conduct of the parties).  The party who is successful at trial often is awarded costs, However, if a party (even the successful one) has caused delays or done things like file frivolous motions, he or she can be ordered to pay the costs of the other party.


Keep in mind, that if you get a money judgment, if the other party will not pay, it is up to you to collect.  This usually means filing more forms in court.

Some collection options include:

  • Garnishing wages,
  • Garnishing bank accounts,
  • Having personal property seized,
  • Registering a judgment against land.


Also, the unsuccessful party may decide to appeal the decision.  First, they have to ask the Court of Appeal for leave (permission) to appeal.  You can only appeal on a question of law.

For More Information

The Court of Queen’s Bench Rules set out the procedure for civil cases in Manitoba.  Also take a look at The Limitation of Actions Act.  The Limitation of Actions Act sets out how long a party has to start a court proceeding. This varies depending on the type of case.  The most common limitation periods are two or six years.