While Hassell Trial Counsel’s focus is on Superior Court civil trials, we get questions about Small Claims Court trials. Here’s an overview of the Small Claims Court process and some useful links.
Small Claims Court has jurisdiction to award a maximum of $35,000.00 (as of January 1, 2020). Below is a brief outline of the main steps in a typical claim.
Pleadings and Documents – The plaintiff sets out its claim and version of the facts in a plaintiff’s claim and attaches all plaintiff documents. The defendant sets out its version of the facts in a defence and attaches all defendant documents. There is an opportunity for the defendant to counterclaim or claim against a third party.
Witnesses – After the defence is filed, the Court schedules a settlement conference. At least 14 days before the settlement conference, the parties must provide a list of witnesses.
Settlement Conference – Settlement can occur at any stage. Making an offer is good strategy. The settlement conference is before a Deputy Judge in order to canvas settlement. If settlement is not reached, trial issues are addressed and the case can proceed to trial.
Trial – At trial, the parties get to present their version of the facts through witness testimony and exhibits. There is an opportunity to cross-examine the other party’s witnesses. The law of evidence is somewhat relaxed in Small Claims Court. Factual and legal submissions are made in opening and closing statements.
Judgment – The successful party is awarded a judgment. If the plaintiff is awarded a sum of money, it is their responsibility to collect it. The successful party is usually awarded costs, but in Small Claims Court costs are limited.
Useful Small Claims Court Links
Trial Checklist: https://trialcounsel.ca/small-claims-court-trial-checklist/
Ontario Civil Trial Manual: https://trialcounsel.ca/ontario-civil-trial-manual/