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The Small Claims Court can be extremely useful as a negotiating and dispute resolution tool, especially given that the jurisdiction has been increased to $25,000. However, despite its simplicity compared to higher levels of court, the Small Claims Court can be quite confusing at times.

BELOW is a brief overview of the steps of the Small Claims Court procedure in Ontario.

Demand Letter
Before filing a claim in the Small Claims Court it is proper to send a formal, written letter to the proposed Defendant. This “Demand Letter” should provide the Defendant enough information to reasonably be able to settle the matter without going to Small Claims Court. If your opponent is willing to give you what you want then there is no reason to waste the Small Claims Court’s time with the dispute.
Plaintiff's Claim
The Plaintiff’s Claim is filed to begin the Small Claims Court procedure. It outlines the claims that the Plaintiff intends to make at trial and the related allegations, and all document evidence that is to be relied upon should be attached to it. It is served promptly upon the Defendant. The Plaintiff will rely on the allegations that are made in the Plaintiff’s Claim at trial, as well as any evidence that is attached to it.
Defence
After the Plaintiff’s Claim has been properly served by the Plaintiff, the Defendant has 20 calendar days to respond by filing a “Defence” with the Small Claims Court. The Clerk of the Small Claims Court will then send a copy to the Plaintiff(s) and will schedule a date for the settlement conference.
Claims over $25,000+
The Small Claims Court in Ontario has raised its jurisdiction from $10,000 to $25,000 which has opened the Small Claims Court up to a large number of disputes that otherwise would have been stuck in higher levels of court which can be far more time consuming and costly. Even claims that are over $25,000 can be deliberately lowered to stay within the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court in order to speed up resolution and to lower costs. Consult with your Small Claims Court Lawyer before choosing whether the Small Claims Court is the proper avenue for you.
Default Judgment
If the Defendant has been properly served and fails to file a Defence within the allotted time then the Plaintiff may bring a motion for Default Judgment. Default Judgment is a judgment that can be enforced much like any other. This is why time limits must be taken very seriously in the Small Claims Court. If you find out that there is a default judgment against you then you should act immediately to try to rectify the situation.
Defendant's Claims
Defendants have the opportunity to claim damages against Plaintiffs by filing and serving a “Defendant’s Claim” as long as the claims are related to the same set of facts. The Defendant’s Claim works much like the Plaintiff’s Claim and the two matters will be dealt with together.
Settlement Conference
Before the Small Claims Court Clerk schedules a Trial there will be a Settlement Conference before a Judge of the Small Claims Court. This person will be somebody who presides at Small Claims Court trials but will not be the Judge that hears your case if it makes it to trial. Instead, this Judge will provide an impartial recommendation and explain the strengths and weaknesses of the respective cases. Above all, settlement will be encouraged, failing which a trial will be scheduled by the Clerk.
Trial
Small Claims Court trials are heard by Small Claims Court Judges and their decision is binding. They have jurisdiction to award up to $25,000 in damages as well as costs. Retaining a Small Claims Court Lawyer is not necessary however it may save you time and provide you with a strategic advantage and peace of mind.

For more information contact Jonathan for a free consultation or read the government’s guides here.

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