Are you planning on suing someone in small claims court in Ontario? Read our step by step guide to file a small claims in Ontario. The truth is that many people don’t want to be in a situation where they have to sue someone or be the one who is getting sued. However, there are many instances where you might have experienced a financial loss because of another party’s negligence or unethical behaviour, and it is mandatory that you have to go through the small claims court to get compensated.Since the law is not black and white and has a lot of grey areas, just because you take someone to small claims court, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will win. It is essential to prepare and seek legal advice before proceeding with your claim. At Balatidis Legal, a small claims court paralegal located in Mississauga, Ontario, who can give you legal advice and prepare you for filing a small claim in Ontario. To provide you with a comprehensive look at what steps you need to prepare for small claims court, here is a step-by-step guide on how to file a small claims in Ontario.
About The Ontario Small Claims CourtThe Ontario Small Claims Court is for people seeking to recover personal property or payment in money from another party. In terms of the amount, the court deals with amounts not exceeding CAD $35,000, excluding interest fees and additional court fees. The CAD $35,000 includes the monetary amount or the overall value of properties that the plaintiff has filed for. For amounts that exceed CAD $35,000, you can still file a claim in the Small Claims Court. But keep in mind that you must forfeit the amount is over $35,000. For example, you cannot file two separate cases by dividing the amount. For an amount of $40,000, you cannot claim $35,000 and then open a second claim for $5,000. If the amount you are suing for is more than $35,000, you can take your case to the Superior Court of Justice, otherwise known as Civil Court.
Types of Claims That Can Be Filed In The Small Claims CourtSince the Small Claims Court is dubbed as the ‘People’s Court,’ various civil matters between parties vary from professional and personal reasons. The types of claims that can be filed are divided under two categories: claims for money owed due to an agreement and claims for damages up to $35,000. Claims for money owed due to an agreement:
- Debt Recovery including unpaid loans
- Unpaid accounts for services and goods delivered
- Unpaid rent
- NSF cheques
- Breach of Contract
- Personal injuries
- Contractor Disputes including the filing of Construction Liens
- Insurance Subrogation Claims
- Negligence Claims including claims against Realtors
- Debtor examinations
- Seizure and sale of land or property
- Property damage
What You Need To File For Small Claims Court - OnlineThe official documents and paperwork are essential to prove your case. This is an important part of filing a claim, and you will need to do a bit of legwork. Here is the information and documents you will need to file for small claims court:
- If you plan to file your claim online, you will need a Service Ontario account. Sign up for your account here.
- At least one form of payment: Visa or Visa Debit, Mastercard or Debit Mastercard or online banking account to pay opening a claim.
- The legal name of the person or business you plan to sue along with their current address.
- A Plaintiff’s claim is a document explaining the reason you’re filing a small claim on the particular party.
- Any documents scanned and saved on your computer that support your claims. For example, unpaid invoices, copies of NSF cheques, copy of the written agreement or contract signed by both parties.
- If you are the person or business being sued, you should fill out a Defendant’s Claim. You can download the Defendant’s Claim, here.
Overview of the Process Involved in Small Claims CourtHere is a Small Claims Court overview to help you to understand how the process works:
The ClaimAfter the plaintiff has paid the court fee and filed the claim online, the claim can be mailed or served in person to the individual or business. The claim must state the request for money or personal property owed. Both a plaintiff’s claim form and a defendant’s claim form is needed.
The DefenceAfter the defendant is served with the plaintiff’s claim, they have a chance to reply to the claim. The defendant can gather their paperwork and make copies to give to the plaintiff. The defendant then sends the original defence form and an affidavit of the service to the Small Claims court, where the plaintiff, originally, filed the claim. This is called “serving” the defence. The defendant must file their claim and pay the fee for filing their defence.
The Settlement ConferenceA settlement conference provides an opportunity for both parties to explain their argument and an opinion will be given to both parties from the deputy judge. Within 90 days after the defendant files their claim, both parties will receive a notice from the small claims court stating a date and time where a settlement conference will occur. Both parties will have the opportunity to complete a Proposed Witnesses document (Form 13A). The proposed witnesses document should be filed within 14 days before the designated settlement conference. It is also important that the plaintiff and defendant serve each other copies of additional documents that weren’t originally attached to the initial claim within 14 days of the settlement conference.
The TrialIf both parties do not come to an agreement during the settlement conference, your case will go trial. The trial will occur before a new judge and not the judge who sat in during your settlement conference. During the trial, both parties will have the chance to explain their argument and witnesses can be called to testify for each party. Once both parties' witnesses have spoken, the judge will make a final judgement.
Useful Tips For Preparing For Small Claims CourtWe can’t stress it enough: both parties need to prove their case, and you should not arrive at your settlement conference and trial without supporting documentation. Here are some useful tips for preparing for small claims court:
- Make sure your claim is written in clear and readable writing, as this is the first document the judge will review. If your writing is hard to read, type out your claim, print it, and attach it to the claim form.
- At your trial, be sure to have copies of evidence to prove your case. This includes receipts, invoices, and written agreements and contracts that were signed by you and the defendant.
- Be sure that your claim falls under the categories: for money owed due to an agreement or claims for damages up to CAD $35,000.
- Pay attention to details such as what the defendant says in their defence claim. Be sure to gather evidence that will dispute their defence. Also, make a note of details such as specific dates, times, and locations of where your settlement conference and trial will be held.
- Pay attention to timelines and dates stated on court-appointed documents. For example, if it says that you have 14 days before the settlement conference to file additional documents that need to be served to the defendant, do not wait a few days before the 14 days are up to send in your documents. You have to consider filing and processing time, which can take up to 2-3 business days.
- Prepare for your settlement conference by organizing all of your documents into a neat folder. Before making a claim, you should know that the judge’s final decision will be available on the internet for the public to see. If you lose your case, the public will be able to read it.