small claims court law

Ontario Small Claims Court Law

Book a Small Claims Court Consultation Now

Navigating Small Claims Court in Ontario: Why Legal Representation Matters

Small Claims Court serves as a vital avenue for individuals and businesses in Ontario to resolve disputes involving relatively small amounts of money in a timely and cost-effective manner. While the court's simplified procedures are designed to make it accessible to self-represented litigants, there are instances where the expertise of a lawyer can make a significant difference in navigating the process effectively. In this article, we'll explore why someone might need a lawyer to attend Small Claims Court in Ontario and the various steps and procedures involved in this court.

Why Might Someone Need a Lawyer in Small Claims Court?

1. Complex Legal Issues: While Small Claims Court is designed to handle simpler legal matters, some cases may involve complex legal issues or procedural rules that require specialized knowledge and expertise. A lawyer can provide valuable guidance in understanding the applicable laws and presenting legal arguments effectively.

2. Evidence and Documentation: Presenting evidence and documentation effectively is crucial to success in Small Claims Court. A lawyer can help gather relevant evidence, prepare documentation, and present a compelling case on behalf of their client, increasing the likelihood of a favorable outcome.

3. Legal Strategy and Negotiation: Developing a sound legal strategy and effectively negotiating settlements are essential aspects of Small Claims Court proceedings. A lawyer can assess the strengths and weaknesses of a case, advise on settlement options, and negotiate on behalf of their client to achieve the best possible result.

4. Representation at Hearings and Trials: Small Claims Court hearings and trials involve legal procedures and courtroom etiquette that may be unfamiliar to self-represented litigants. A lawyer can represent their client at hearings, present arguments, examine witnesses, and advocate for their interests effectively, ensuring a fair and impartial adjudication of the case.

5. Appeals and Enforcement: In cases where a party is dissatisfied with the outcome of a Small Claims Court proceeding, they may have the option to appeal the decision. A lawyer can provide guidance on the appellate process and represent their client's interests in seeking a review of the decision. Additionally, if a judgment needs to be enforced, a lawyer can assist in taking the necessary legal steps to enforce the judgment and recover the amount owed.

Steps and Procedures in Small Claims Court:

1. Initiating the Claim: The first step in commencing a Small Claims Court action is to file a Plaintiff's Claim with the court. The claim sets out the details of the dispute, including the amount of money being claimed and the basis for the claim.

2. Serving the Defendant: Once the claim is filed, the Plaintiff must serve a copy of the claim on the Defendant. Service must be carried out in accordance with the rules of the court, typically by personal service or by mail.

3. Defendant's Response: After being served with the claim, the Defendant has a specified period to file a Defence or a Defendant's Claim if they wish to counterclaim against the Plaintiff.

4. Settlement Conference: In some cases, the court may schedule a settlement conference to facilitate negotiations between the parties and explore the possibility of reaching a settlement without the need for a trial.

5. Pre-Trial Conference: If the case does not settle at the settlement conference, the court may schedule a pre-trial conference to discuss procedural matters, exchange evidence, and prepare for trial.

6. Trial: If the parties are unable to resolve the dispute through settlement or alternative dispute resolution methods, the case proceeds to trial. At trial, each party presents their evidence and arguments, and the judge makes a decision based on the merits of the case.

7. Judgment: Following the trial, the judge issues a judgment, outlining the decision and any orders for payment or other remedies.

8. Appeals and Enforcement: Parties dissatisfied with the judgment may have the option to appeal the decision to a higher court. If the judgment requires enforcement, the successful party may take legal steps to enforce the judgment and collect the amount owed.

Whether it's navigating complex legal issues, presenting evidence effectively, or negotiating settlements, the expertise of a lawyer can be invaluable in achieving a favorable outcome in Small Claims Court proceedings. Understanding the steps and procedures involved in Small Claims Court is essential for anyone considering legal action in pursuit of justice and resolution of disputes in Ontario.

If your dispute is under $35,000.00, you can sue for money or the return of property in Ontario's Small Claims Court. The Small Claims Court is a branch of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. If you're looking to sue an individual or business in Small Claims Court, your claim should fall into one of these categories:

1. Claims for money owed under an agreement, such as,

-unpaid accounts for goods or services sold and delivered

-unpaid loans

-unpaid rent

-NSF (non-sufficient funds) cheques

2. Claims for damages, such as,

-property damage

-clothes damaged by a dry cleaner

-personal injuries

-breach of contract

If you want to sue for more than $35,000.00, you will have to take your case out of Small Claims Court and into the Superior Court of Justice. 

If you're looking to initiate a lawsuit in Small Claims Court, you would want to make sure that you have all the facts and evidence in support of your claim. You need to know of the time limitations involved with starting a claim at Small Claims Court. Generally speaking, the limitation period is two years since the date of the incident.

A plaintiff's claim can be filed either online, in person, or by mail. There is a fee for filing a claim. After you initiate your lawsuit, you will need to serve the defendant with your claim.

At Key Legal, you can request a consultation with a lawyer with respect to your Small Claims Court matter. A lawyer can assist you with drafting pleadings, how to serve your claim, how a lawsuit process works, or even represent you in the different steps of a small claims lawsuit, such as the settlement conference or trial.

If you've been sued at Small Claims Court, you may be looking for a lawyer to defend you. While you can file your defence yourself, it may be better to have a lawyer review the defence and go over the facts and evidence with you. A lawyer may discover details of the claim or procedural irregularities that you may not be aware of but that could help in your defense. Do not ignore a claim, as the plaintiff can get default judgment against you.

If you obtain Judgment at Small Claims Court, you may be wondering how to enforce your Judgment. Contact a lawyer to discuss your options for enforcing judgment and getting what you deserve.

At Small Claims Court, there are certain circumstances where you may be able to appeal a judge's decision. This appeal will take place at the Divisional Court. It is important to consult a lawyer to be able to figure out what evidence you are able to present at the Divisional Court. Generally speaking, the court on appeal will only look at what was said and done at the Small Claims Court trial to determine whether or not the appeal is successful.

Ready to get started?  Key Legal has Ontario Small Claims Court Lawyers ready to help you either through Zoom meetings or by telephone.  You can either book an appointment or request a lawyer on-demand.  Just use our booking page or our chat feature to get started!