Legal Definitions

Beginners Guide to Legal Definitions



Affidavit - A written statement setting out facts and evidence. The statement is sworn to or solemnly affirmed by the person making those statements before a person authorized to administer oaths.



Claim and Counterclaim - The legal document which carries a claim is often called a Statement of Claim. The defendant to a cause of action must file an "Answer" to the complaint in which the claims can be admitted or denied (including denial on the basis of insufficient information in the complaint to form a response). The answer may also contain counterclaims in which the "Counterclaim Plaintiff" states its own causes of action.


Discovery Process - The way the parties in an action started by a notice of civil claim discover what happened in the case. It allows the parties to collect information in order to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the case. The process can include: discovery of documents, examinations for discovery, interrogatories, pre-trial examination of witnesses, and notices to admit.


Examinations for Discovery- A meeting where one party asks an opposing party a series of questions. The examination takes place in the presence of a court reporter who records each question and its answer and then provides a transcript (a written record) of the examination. The party answering questions must take an oath or give a solemn affirmation that they will tell the truth. No judges or court officials are present during examinations for discovery.


Expert - A witness who gives evidence to help the court understand technical and scientific issues raised by the pleadings. He or she may give opinions in areas that would not normally be within the judge’s knowledge. The expert must be shown to possess the necessary skill and qualifications in the area in which the opinion is sought. An expert can give evidence in person or by writing a report called an expert report.


Injunction Application - an application asking the court to require a party to do a particular act or to refrain from doing a particular act.


Legal Petition - A document that starts an originating application. It sets out the basic facts of the event or transaction, the legal consequences and the remedy or relief the petitioner is asking for.


Notice of Application - A document that tells the parties and the court the date of a chambers application.


Notice of Civil Claim - A document that notifies both the court and the people who are being sued that a lawsuit has started. This document sets out the facts of the claim, the legal consequences arising from those facts, the remedy or relief the plaintiff is asking for and where the trial is going to be held.


Writ of Summons - An official court document directing a person to appear in court to answer a complaint.



For more detailed information about the civil process at the Supreme Court of BC click here: