Area of Law: Small Claims Court
Answer # 539
Determining who to sue in Small Claims CourtRegion: Ontario Answer # 539
By correctly naming all the defendants you are suing, it will be easier to win the lawsuit and collect any money which the court may order the defendants to pay you. In a lawsuit, a defendant can be either a person, business, organization, association, or other type of legal entity responsible for your loss.
Finding the defendant’s proper name
Before you start a lawsuit, you will need to find out the proper legal name of the defendant. Who you name as a defendant will depend on whether your situation involves a person or a business.
If you are going to sue a person, it is necessary to find out his or her legal name. A person’s legal name might appear on a lease, cheque, or other official document. If a defendant is known by more than one name, you should list all of them. For example, you may refer to someone as “Robert Smith, also known as Bob Smith.”
Suing a business
If you are going to sue a business, the name you use for the defendant will depend on what type of business it is. There are three types of business entities: corporations, partnerships, and sole proprietorships.
If the defendant is a corporation, you should use its full legal name, which will probably end with the word corporation, incorporated, limited or one of their abbreviations. The full business name usually appears on the business’ letterhead, cheques, business cards, or contracts. If you are unsure about the full legal name of the business or whether it is a corporation, you can do a corporate search through the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services.
If you want to sue a partnership or one of the partners in a partnership, you should list the partnership as the defendant, rather than the name of any individual partner. Even though you are not required to list individual partners as defendants, if you are suing a partnership but want to be able to collect money from one of the partners personally, you may want to name that partner as a defendant in the Plaintiff’s Claim and deliver a copy to that partner as well.
Sole proprietorship defendant
If the business you are suing is not a corporation or a partnership, and it is operated by one individual, it is called a sole proprietorship.
For a sole proprietorship, you can check to see whether the business name is registered with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. If the business name is registered, you can use the name of the business as the defendant in your lawsuit.
If the business name is not registered, you should use the name of the owner of the business as the defendant. You may wish to include both. For example, you may sue “John Smith, carrying on business as John’s Cleaning Service.”
Suing an organization or other type of legal entity
Your case may involve a different type of entity, such as a sports club or charitable organization. As with any other lawsuit, it is imperative that you determine who the defendant is and obtain the correct legal name. In such cases, the organization can take several legal forms, such as a non-profit corporation or an unincorporated association.
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