The Small Claims Court Rules and the Process in Ontario
The Small Claims Court Rules define how Small Claims Courts in Ontario will hear and resolve your case. There are various forms available to simplify the process as much as possible and to help litigants to represent their cases. This page is intended to answer the frequently asked questions our clients have with respect to the Small Claims Court process and responsibilities of Plaintiff and Defendant at each step of the claim.
What are the Rules of Small Claims Court?
All proceedings in the Small Claims Court in Ontario are governed by the Rules of the Small Claims Court, O Reg 258/98. To make them easy to understand and navigate through each Rule is numbered and has relevant subparagraphs. Some Rules assigned a specific Form to be used by litigants to ease the process. Overall, Small Claims Court’s process is intended to simplify the litigation process and to expedite the resolution of every claim on its merits.
What is the monetary limit for the Small Claims Court?
Ontario Regulations # 626/00 provide that the maximum amount of a claim in the Small Claims Court is $35,000. It is important to note that this amount limits the “claim”, i.e., the Plaintiff’s demand to pay. Legal costs associated with the claim and disbursements are subject to other limits and typically awarded on top of the “claim”. This cup does not include interest and costs, that are routinely awarded on top of the judgement.
Let’s say a Plaintiff is represented by a Paralegal and within two years spent $5,000 in legal fees and disbursements to win a $35,000 claim. These $5000, subject to the Court’s discretion, will be awarded on top of a $35,000 judgement. Plus, pre-and post-judgment interest may be ordered to compensate Plaintiff for losses of time when the debt is unpaid.
If you have a claim that exceeds $35,000, you may choose to go through the Superior Court of Justice process and claim the full amount owed or you may abandon any entitlements over this limit to keep the claim within the monetary jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court.
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Does it worth hiring a Litigation Paralegal for the Small Claims Court?
The overall cost of litigation is the consideration every Plaintiff shall be aware of before proceeding with the filing of Plaintiff’s claim. The correct answer is “it depends”. While legal fees are compensable at the end of trial to a successful party, in some cases the cost of representation exceeds the claim. Small Claims Court is not as small as it sounds like, and you should be prepared for the litigation process.
Let’s say if your claim is under $5,000, it might not be the best option to hire a Paralegal to represent you, however, booking a consultation before the claim is submitted is highly recommended. For a relatively small fee you will be provided with an overview of your case and will be given instructions on what and how to proceed properly. Many of our clients appreciate this option and are thankful for the insight provided.
If your claim exceeds $5,000 or your case is a complicated one, it is recommended that you retain a Paralegal to represent you throughout the process as potential benefits of being represented might be valuable for you.
We would definitely recommend retaining a Paralegal in claims concerned with construction and renovation, breach of trust, negligence, misrepresentation and fraud, defamation, consumer protection and other complex litigation.
In most cases our fees are based on the time we spent on your file, except in some very limited cases where we choose to use a contingency retainer.