What is Small Claims Court?
The Small Claims Court is a civil court in Ontario that allows you to resolve disputes in a legal setting. These disputes revolve around matters where the monetary value sought does not exceed the amount of $35,000. The key purpose of the Small Claims Court is to place you back in the position you were in before the loss occurred.
If you would like to be awarded damages exceeding $35,000, this would be done in the Superior Court of Justice. This may be more difficult and complex; the Court proceeding may take longer to complete.
Which matters can be heard in Small Claims Court?
The Small Claims Court deals with matters involving:
- Money owed under an agreement, such as:
- Goods and services sold and delivered in which payment was not received;
- Unpaid loans;
- Non-Sufficient Funds Cheques.
- Damages, such as:
- property damage, including personal effects;
- personal injury;
- breach of contract;
Are there limitation dates in Small Claims Court?
A lawsuit in Small Claims Court is known as a “claim”. If you are looking to file a claim with the Small Claims Court, this must be done within 2 years of when you suffered a loss or when you first learned about the loss suffered. Once you have filed a claim, the defendant (legal term referring to the individual who caused the loss) has twenty days to file a defence. If a defence is not filed within the 20-day period, then you can request that the Court have the defendant be “noted in default”. This means that the Court will make the assumption that the defendant has admitted to owing you money. It is very important to ask the Court to have the defendant be noted in default after the 20-day limitation. If this step is missed, the defendant could still file a defence.
If you are a defendant noted in a claim and you require more time to prepare a defence, you may ask the plaintiff (the legal term of the individual who filed a claim against you) for an extension to submit your defence, to ensure the Court does not note you in default. In most cases, the plaintiff or plaintiff counsel usually allow for an extension when required.
For more information regarding limitation dates and next steps please visit: https://www.ontario.ca/page/suing-someone-small-claims-court
What are the steps involved in Small Claims Court?
Matters heard in the Small Claims Court usually follow a standardized procedure, with 5 important steps including:
- Plaintiff Claim filed with the Court – the claim is the document that sets out the events that caused the loss or damage.
- Defence filed with the Court – the Defendant files a response to the claim either admitting or denying the allegations noted in the claim.
- List of Proposed Witnesses and Documents – 14 days before the Settlement Conference, both parties are to submit their documents that will be used to prove their case. Parties can also provide their proposed witness list (witnesses who may be asked to attend the trial).
- Settlement Conference – the Court will set a date for both parties to meet before a Judge to attempt to find a resolution to the matter that all parties agree on.
- Trial – if the matter cannot be resolved at the settlement conference, the case will then proceed to trial. This will allow both parties to present their case before a Judge (it will not be the same Judged who presided over the settlement conference) and a decision will be rendered by the Judge.
For more information regarding preparation for Settlement Conference and Trial please visit: https://www.attorneygeneral.jus.gov.on.ca/english/courts/guides/Guide_to_Getting_Ready_for_Court_EN.html
At Ron Ellis Law we have our Licensed Paralegals who can help assist you with your Small Claims Matter. It is said that the Small Claims Court is designed to be simple and efficient, however, that is not always the case. Those that choose to self-represent often find themselves challenged by experienced counsel for the opposing party, confusing rules, and much time spent away from their professional obligations trying to navigate the court system. It is important to remember that there is no replacement for skilled legal experience and knowledge. Our Paralegals are highly skilled in Small Claims matters and can give you the edge you need to bring or defend a successful claim.