Area of Law: Small Claims Court
Answer # 538
Minors and Small Claims CourtRegion: Ontario Answer # 538
If you are under the age of 18 you are considered a minor. Minors are only allowed to represent themselves in Small Claims Court when they are plaintiffs and the amount of the claim is less than $500. If you are a minor and you are a plaintiff in a lawsuit where the claim is for more than $500, or if you are a defendant in any lawsuit, you will need to have someone represent you. This person is called your Litigation Guardian.
Who can be a Litigation Guardian and how do they become one?
A Litigation Guardian can be anyone who is capable of suing on their own and who is not involved with people on the other side of the case. Usually a Litigation Guardian is a relative or parent of the minor. To become a Litigation Guardian, the individual must first fill out a special form available at the Small Claims Court office.
The role of the Litigation Guardian
Being a Litigation Guardian is a role which carries a great deal of responsibility. The Litigation Guardian is there to make decisions about the lawsuit for the minor. In Small Claims Court, the Litigation Guardian can represent the minor, and can negotiate with the other side on behalf of the minor. However, the Litigation Guardian does not have the right to settle the matter unless the settlement agreement has been brought to court and a judge has approved it. A Litigation Guardian may also be personally responsible for any legal costs of the lawsuit.
Suing parents for damage caused by children
In Ontario, the extent to which a parent is responsible for damages caused by their children is covered under the Parental Responsibility Act. Under the Act, parents are held financially responsible for property loss, damage or destruction intentionally caused by their children who are under 18 years of age.
People who have suffered damages because of the actions of minors are able to bring a claim against the child’s parents in Small Claims Court (up-to the maximum Small Claims Court limit of $35,000). In addition to the value of the property damaged, the amount of the claim can also include costs incurred because of the damage, such as lost wages or profits and car rental costs.
In cases where the minor has been found guilty of a property offence in youth court, the Act also permits victims to access and use youth records that are normally protected under the federal Young Offenders Act and Youth Criminal Justice Act to help prove their case.
If you are a minor and you do not have someone to be your Litigation Guardian, you should contact the Office of the Children’s Lawyer.
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