Area of Law: Small Claims Court
Answer # 558
What are costs?Region: Ontario Answer # 558
Costs are the expenses of bringing a lawsuit to court. Usually, the winning side in a court case has their costs added to the amount of their judgment. This may not cover all the expenses, but can cover many of them. Typically, costs in Small Claims Court are limited to 15% of the value of the claim.
Costs may include some or all the following:
- fees paid to the court to prepare and file a Plaintiff’s Claim, a Defence, or a Defendant’s Claim;
- fees paid to the court to file a motion;
- fees paid to serve documents;
- witness attendance fees;
- transportation costs to attend court;
- costs of photocopying papers, or having photographs developed;
- postage for serving documents;
- compensation for having to attend court when the other party didn’t show up; and the
- cost of hiring a necessary interpreter.
If the winning party was represented in court by a lawyer or a paralegal, costs may be awarded to cover the expense of the legal representative. This usually does not cover the entire legal bill, only the representative’s court time. However, in exceptional circumstances a judge may order that the winning party’s entire legal bill be paid by the losing party.
Whether a judge awards costs can be affected if an offer to settle was made. If the judge feels that the winning party should have accepted an offer to settle that was made by the other side, the judge may decide not to award the winning party their costs. If the judge feels that the losing party should have settled the case, the winning party can be awarded double the amount of their costs. These decisions are made when the judge feels that one of the parties has wasted the court’s time and inconvenienced the other side.
Sometimes, after a motion or a settlement conference, a judge will order a party to pay certain costs to the other side forthwith. This means right away. If the person does not pay, he or she might not be allowed to go ahead in the lawsuit, and judgment may even be ordered against them.
To check whether an order of costs has been made against you, contact the staff at the court. Be sure to know the claim number of the case.
For a full list of fees payable to the court, consult the Small Claims Court – Guide to Fee Schedules.
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