After several years of pushback on the existing summary trial procedure, the Province of Alberta has amended the Alberta Rules of Court (the Rules) to create a new “streamlined trial” process effective January 1, 2024.
The amendment repeals the summary trial process under Division 3 of the Rules, removing the procedure in its entirety. In its place, newly-added Rules 8.25 to 8.31 establish a streamlined trial process in Alberta. This process seeks to encourage the resolution of legal disputes in a more efficient and resource-effective manner.
What is a Streamlined Trial?
A streamlined trial is a full trial on the merits of an Action in which the judge’s decision is final. The primary difference between a streamlined trial and a full trial is that a streamlined trial operates primarily on written affidavit evidence rather than oral evidence, unless a Court directs otherwise.
A streamlined trial may be appropriate even if there are issues of credibility, expert evidence is introduced, and some oral evidence or cross-examination of some witnesses is required.
By using primarily written evidence, streamlined trials provide a more efficient process than full trials and reduce trial hearing time.
When is a Streamlined Trial appropriate, and how do you get one?
The streamlined procedure is appropriate if it allows parties to reach a fair resolution to a dispute and is proportionate to the importance and complexity of the issues, the amounts involved, and the resources available to resolve the dispute.
A streamlined trial can be initiated in one of four ways:
- a party may bring an application;
- if the parties all consent to a streamlined trial, they can submit a written request to the Court;
- a party can make a request through the case management process; or
- the Court can direct that a streamlined trial be initiated.
The newly-added Rules do not provide any criteria or guidance as to what kinds of disputes are appropriate for the streamlined trial process. Since the amendments only came into the effect at the beginning of 2024, the Courts have yet to release case law establishing criteria or a test for when a streamlined trial is appropriate.
The Rules do however provide that if there is any dispute about the mode of trial, it will be determined by the Court in summary manner. Where a party unjustifiably objects to the use of a streamlined trial, a case conference or trial judge may make a procedural order requiring use of the process, and may make a costs award or impose a penalty against the objecting party.
There has been little concrete guidance provided as to when a streamlined trial will be considered appropriate by the Court, absent agreement. In 2021, the Rules of Court Committee proposed the following list of dispute categories as appropriate (though not mandatory) for a streamlined trial:
- actions for recovery of a liquidated sum less than $500,000;
- actions for the recovery of real or personal property;
- actions for damages for personal injury where the damage award would likely be under $75,000;
- family property actions, taking into consideration whether the family property includes an active business or farming operation;
- spousal and child support claims; and
- wrongful dismissal actions.
Ultimately, however, the Province chose not to include the above list of dispute categories in the final draft of the amendments to the Rules so it is likely that a case could be made for appropriateness of streamlined trials in a broad ranges of cases. In addition, commentary suggests that where both parties agree to a streamlined trial, the Court will generally allow it to proceed.
How Does a Streamlined Trial Differ From a Summary Trial?
The (no longer available) summary trial process existed as an alternative path for dispute resolution in cases where a full trial was not required for a particular case, but summary judgment was not appropriate.
The summary trial process created certain inefficiencies that the streamlined trial process aims to address. For example, in a summary trial, a defendant could object to the summary trial up until the day before the trial, and a judge could decline to issue a decision at the end of the summary trial. This led to uncertainty in dispute resolution and wasted efforts and resources.
The new Rules create a mechanism for the Court to resolve objections to a streamlined trial in a summary manner – before the streamlined trial commences.
Notably, the Rules now require that a judgment be granted after the conclusion of every streamlined trial. The establishment of mandatory decision-making by judges in this type of trial will increase efficiency in dispute resolution while also conserving judicial resources.
The streamlined trial procedure provides a revamped process for efficient dispute resolution in Alberta, saving time and legal resources as well as fostering access to justice for civil litigants.
For more information on the new amendments to the Alberta Rules of Court, please see the following Court of King’s Bench documents:
For further information on Alberta’s new streamlined trial process and how it may impact your litigation, please feel free to contact a member of our Litigation & Dispute Resolution Group.
 Alberta Rules of Court, Alta Reg 126/2023, r 8.25(3).
 Alberta Rules of Court, Alta Reg 126/2023, r 8.25.
 Alberta Rules of Court, Alta Reg 126/2023, r 8.26(1).
 Alberta Rules of Court, Alta Reg 126/2023, r 8.27(1).
 Alberta Rules of Court, Alta Reg 126/2023, r 8.27(2).
 Alberta Court of King’s Bench, “Rules of Court Committee, Request for Comments 2021-1: Streamlined Trials” (September 21, 2021) at 5.
 Alberta Court of King’s Bench, “Rules of Court Committee, Request for Comments 2021-1: Streamlined Trials” (September 21, 2021) at 4.
 Alberta Court of King’s Bench, “Rules of Court Committee, Request for Comments 2021-1: Streamlined Trials” (September 21, 2021) at 1-2.
 Alberta Rules of Court, Alta Reg 126/2023, r 8.31(2).
Andrea Lutsch is an associate in the Calgary office of Lawson Lundell LLP. Her practice focuses on general commercial litigation with a particular emphasis on professional negligence, professional conduct, and corporate ...
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Emily received her JD from the University of Calgary and holds a BComm in Business Economics and Law from the University of Alberta.Prior to law school, she worked as an Underwriting Assistant and Claims Adjuster.
In her spare time ...
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