Individuals who are planning to sue and are asking for damages amounting to $25,000 or less may bring the suit before the Ontario Small Claims Court. Such claims must fall under the category of money owed under a contract or claims for damages.
Several steps are involved in bringing an action to small claims court. These include:
- Preparing a plaintiff’s claim
- Serving the claim on the defendant
- Filing a defence by the defendant
- Attending the settlement conference
- Attending trial
Preparing A Plaintiff’s Claim
An individual may start a claim by filing out a Plaintiff’s Claim form. This form is later submitted to the court. The claim must include the relevant facts and, if the claim is based in whole or in part on a document, a copy of the document must be attached to the claim.
Once the form has been filled out and documents have been attached to it, the claim is ready to be filed. In certain circumstances filing can be done online, otherwise it must be done in person. It is imperative that individuals file their claim in the appropriate courthouse.
Serving The Claim
A copy of the claim must be served on the defendant within six months of filing the plaintiff’s claim.
Filing The Defence
The defendant has the right to dispute the claim. To do so, he or she must file a defence. This must be accomplished within 20 days of being served.
If the defendant fails to file this form, the plaintiff can ask for the defendant to be found in default.
The Settlement Conference
Before trial, the disputing parties attend a settlement conference. This is a session in which the parties meet with a judge in an attempt to find ways to settle the dispute without proceeding to court. The settlement conference takes place 90 days after a defence is filed. If a resolution to the conflict cannot be found, the case moves to trial.
At trial, a judge hears the case and makes a decision based on the facts and any evidence brought before the court.
Before commencing a lawsuit, it is prudent to seek the advice of a lawyer.