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.
How to file a Claim. Rules of the Small Claims Court.
To initiate a small claims court case, you must prepare and file Plaintiff’s Claim form with the appropriate court. The form typically requires you to provide details about the parties involved, the nature of the dispute, and the amount being claimed. Understanding the specific filing requirements, including the necessary documentation and fees, is crucial to ensure your claim is properly submitted.
Decide if You Need a Paralegal's Help to assist with the Small Claims Forms and Small Claims Rules.
You have the option to file a claim on your own, but it will be helpful to consult a paralegal. We can guide you through the process and ensure you follow the small claims court's rules. Consider talking to a paralegal to see if their expertise would benefit your case.
Get the Forms required by the Rules of the Small Claims Forms.
As per the Rules of the Small Claims Court, to start your claim, you'll need to get the Plaintiff’s Claim form. Visit the Small Claims Court's official website or go directly to the courthouse to obtain these forms. Make sure you understand which small claims court has jurisdiction to hear your case, as the court in your municipality in most cases, is not a proper forum. Rules of the Small Claims Court define that the claim shall be filed with the court where the Defendant resides or where the cause of action occurred.
Gather Your Important Documents.
Rules of the small claims court require you to attach evidence to your Plaintiff’s claim. Before filling out the forms, gather all the relevant documents that support your position. These could include contracts, receipts, photos, or any other evidence. Organize your documents neatly and in a logical manner to present a strong case and comply with the court's rules.
Get Help from a Paralegal to Complete the Forms:
Filling out the claim forms accurately is crucial. If you decide to work with a paralegal, we can assist you in completing the forms correctly, following the court's rules. We'll help you clearly explain your claim and present your case effectively.
The Plaintiff’s claim may be filed online on at the court’s counter.
Pay the Filing Fee:
When filing your claim, you'll have to pay a $108 filing fee if you are an infrequent claimant. If you are filing online, the payment may be made by credit card. If you are filing in person, you may also write a cheque payable to the Minister of Finance. You shall keep your receipt to be able to claim this fee from Defendant after the trial concludes and the submission on the costs is heard by the Judge.
The Confirmation of filing will be sent to your email address if you are filing online. The Confirmation will have a case number for your claim. You will also receive a Plaintiff’s claim issued by the Court to your email with the Court’s stamp and case number on it.
If you are filing in person, the Clerk of the Court will stamp your Plaintiff’s claim and assign the claim number.
Once the filing is complete, you shall serve the Plaintiff’s claim on Defendant.
Professional Litigation Paralegal Representation
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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.