Small Claims Court in Ontario
If you have been owed some money, such as unpaid wages, or complained about a breach of contract, or know someone who has; chances are that you have at least heard of the Small Claims Court. In fact, for most people their only contact with civil courts in Ontario has been via the Small Claims Court.
The Small Claims Court in Ontario is a branch of the Superior Court of Justice that handles actions for recovery of money or property. The court usually has jurisdiction in matters where the total amount claimed does not exceed $35,000, excluding interest and costs such as court fees.
Where the amount sought is higher than $35,000, the action can only be brought before the Superior Court. Claims pursued in Superior Court, however, are far more complicated. As a result, some individuals may be willing to waive the amount owed over $35,000, to take advantage of the speed of the Small Claims Court.
The Small Claims Court is known for its simplified procedure and generally relaxed rules. This streamlined procedure ensures that cases are determined expeditiously and at lower cost compared to cases initiated in Superior Court. Claims in respect of which an action can be brought include:
- Claims for money owed under an agreement generally, including unpaid accounts for goods or services sold and delivered, unpaid loans or rent, and NSF cheques;
- Claims for damages generally, spanning damages in breach of contract, Property damage, personal injury etc.
Filing a claim in Small Claims Court
Filing a claim or defence in Small Claims Court, as well as for most steps in a proceeding, is dependent on a fee. A typical dispute should commence with the filing of the claim and defence by the plaintiff and defendant respectively, upon which the settlement conference then takes place before trial. A claim should detail the relationship between the plaintiff and defendant, stating the facts and the remedies being sought.
In this court, the plaintiff is the party filing a claim/complaint, and the Defendant is the answering party. The defendant is also able to make counterclaims and file these in his answer to the claim.
The plaintiff commences the action by filing a Plaintiff’s Claim [Form 7A]. They must fill out the necessary information required by the claim form including details about the Plaintiff and the particulars of the case. The form is pretty simple to fill. There is also a Defendant’s Claim [Form 10A] which may be filed where the defendant is also making a claim against the opposing or another party.
It is important to properly name the person or entity against whom the claims are being made. Any mistake or error may complicate the enforcement of your judgment. The claims should also set out your arguments in respect of your position in the claim with copies of supporting documents attached to the claim form.
A proper claim should outline, in clear language, the events that took place and reasons why you think judgment should be given in your favour. Preferably, this should be done chronologically, and in paragraphs. Important names and dates should be included.
After filling out the claim form, you may either file online using an online system delivered by ServiceOntario, upon payment of the prescribed fee. Or file in person or by mail. In which case, you take your completed claim form along with supporting documents and copies for the two parties to the Small Claims Court Office. Filing usually attracts a fee. The clerk usually keeps the original claim and a copy of supporting documents in the court file. The copies will then be stamped and returned to you.
A plaintiff filing a claim, must file at the proper courthouse. Location is usually determined by certain criteria. But generally, you can file your claim in;
- the court in the territorial division where the event took place or breach occurred,
- the court in the territorial division where the defendant carries on business or lives. Where there are several defendants, it will suffice that one of them lives or carries on business in said area.
- or in the court closest to the residential or business address of all (or one) of the defendants.
Any uncertainty can be cleared by calling the court office and seeking the opinion and advice of the court officials. Once the claim has been filed, it may then be served by the plaintiff personally, or through a personal representative or other person. A claim should be served within 6 months of the date it was issued, otherwise the claim will be dismissed for delay two years after filing.
Generally, you must file your claim within two years from the time the problem or breach occurred. But the circumstances of each case may yield r length of time greater or less than two years. In any case, consulting a lawyer or licensed paralegal should help clear any uncertainty.
It is also encouraged to initiate an action only upon a rejoinder by the other party or failure of mediation. It is usually best, before suing, to send the other party a demand letter stating your grievances and demanding restitution or compensation; or engage the services of a mediator to help resolve the issue.
Why are we your best bet?
Proceedings in Small Claims Courts are usually simple enough for individuals to follow. As a result, it is quite common to see litigants choose to conduct their case by themselves. Although there’s nothing wrong with this, having a professional represent you only increases your chances of a positive outcome.
Small Claims Courts do not apply the formal rules of evidence, but parties before the court must still be able to present their cases supported by whatever evidence in such a way as to sway the court in their favor. For a litigant trying to successfully recover their money, his ability to present his case convincingly and properly, and backed by evidence can make all the difference.
The court or its officials are not obligated to give you legal advice on how to conduct your case beyond general information on court procedure. And in some cases, the court will recommend that you hire a licensed paralegal or lawyer from the get go.
At Ontario Legal Pool, we provide guaranteed efficiency and dedication to better represent you. Our licensed, results-driven pool of paralegals combine technical, legal and creative competence to give you that edge in legal representation. More so, we provide these services for a dynamic clientele including public businesses and SMEs. We not only assist our clients with their cases, we educate them as well.