Small Claims Court in Ontario (2019)
About Small Claims Court in Ontario: Cases, Claims, & Damages:
Small claims court is one of the branches of the Superior Court of Justice in Canada. It is empowered to handle disputes that are civil in nature of up to $25,000 Canadian dollars.
$25,000 may sound like a large amount, but with the high degree of litigation involving amounts and damages OVER $25,000, it is indeed a logical division point to define the difference between matters to be handled by the different courts.
There are some special things to note about Small Claims Court and one of them is that this court is governed by simpler rules and procedures.
This is in an aim to have cases heard in an efficient manner and disposed of quickly and certainly.
Types of Cases
The kind of cases that go to Small claims includes any kind of action that requires the payment of money or the recovery of property (personal) where the amount does not exceed $25,000.
This amount excludes interest and costs such as court fees. This amount will include the value of everything the plaintiff is seeking in total, regardless of the number of defendants.
Forfeiting Claims & Damages Above $25K
It is important to note that even if your claim exceeds $25,000 you can still choose to use the court. However, you will have to forfeit any amount over the set court limit that you can claim. Also in doing this, you will forfeit any future right to that excess and any claim in another court.
It should also be mentioned that you cannot divide a claim into separate cases to remain below the $25,000 limit. This is not allowed as the limit will still be enforced and this will be seen as inappropriate.
In other words, don't try to manipulate the small claims court system in order to expedite larger claims. You get one shot, so make sure you are wise in your approach.
Examples of Claims
Money owed under agreements
- Money not paid for goods and services that have been rendered.
- Loans that are unpaid.
- Rent that is unpaid.
- Damage to property
- Contract Breaches
- Personal Injury
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How much will it cost to use the court?
There is a fee that you must pay to be able to file a claim or mount a defence in the Small Claims Court. Also, for many of the steps that are involved in a proceeding such as filing a motion, seeking a trial date or enforcing a judgment a fee will be liable to all parties involved in bringing your claim to court.
When summoning a witness you may have to pay them a fee for their attendance in court. This fee can cover their costs to travel to be in court. Additionally, if you require additional support such as translators, visual language interpretation you will have to cover those fees as well.
It is important to note that the successful party in the claim can then request that the other party pay their court fees and any other associated costs. The government of Ontario introduced a certificate that would be applied to waive certain fees if they cannot afford it. The point is to ensure that no one is denied justice because they cannot afford it.
At this point, it can be noted that a lawyer or a paralegal is not mandatory when you go to small claims court. However, they can help you in the legal matters so you can understand your rights and responsibilities. They will also help you to explore the options you have and can explain the overall justice system to you. For example, an Oshawa paralegal such as Renrow Paralegal would be happy to represent you in small claims court all throughout the GTA, as well as Oshawa.
It is also good to know the difference between a lawyer and a paralegal. The paralegal is another legal based profession and can give legal advice about issues that are discussed in small claims court. The paralegal can be employed by a lawyer or they can work for themselves usually under the supervision of a lawyer.
It depends on the actual problem you are handling but normally a paralegal would cost less than a lawyer. However, you must appreciate the difference that a paralegal cannot work in some areas that a lawyer can. A paralegal and a lawyer can represent you in Small Claims Court but only a lawyer can represent you in a higher court such as the Superior Court or the Court of Appeal.
How can a paralegal help me in Small Claims?
It is a good idea to seek out the service of a paralegal when you have any legal matters. This is a good place to start as when you consult them, they can advise you if they are able to help you with your issue. They can guide you to decide if their expertise will be able to help you in your present situation.
Most paralegal will help you in the processes of your court appearance. This includes: Preparing for the hearing, representation for the hearing and any appeal process if that is necessary. It will also depend on where in Canada you are going to small claims court. Some Paralegals located in Ontario are licensed to practice law in particular fields.
The ones that fall into this area can work independently and do not have to work under the supervision of a lawyer. Therefore, it is important that you do your research and speak to your paralegal before making a decision on your next legal move.
Filing a claim
When you are preparing to file your claim, deciding where to do this may be a concern to you. This is a very important decision and for you to come to this decision you will need to explore the following:
- Look at the courts that are located in the territory in which the incident leading to court action occurred. This will be quite useful as they can relate to local issues and events around your claim.
- You can also look into the division to which the defendant in the court lives or will conduct their business. If there are several defendants, then choose a court in which one of them lives or does business.
- You can also look at where the court holds each sitting. You can choose a court that is nearest to where the defendant lives or carries on their business.
How long do you have to start a claim?
This will depend on the nature of the claim you are making. There may be time limits so it is never advised to wait too long to submit your claims. However, to find out what is applicable to your case, consult your lawyer or paralegal for further advice.
What kind of proof do you need in small claims court?
Going to court as the plaintiff, it is important that you have evidence to prove your case. You will have to gather witnesses and/or documents that you have to support your claim. This is not mandatory to have these but it will help to have your evidence to prove your claim. Admittedly, without evidence, it will be your word against theirs so this would be useful.
Absent of evidence, you will have to write your official claim in a summarized version of events. It will have to be clear on the events leading up to the incident and why you think the judgment should be in your favour. Any kind of supporting documents would be good to help your claim against the defendant, and they will have to respond to your claim and present their arguments as well.