Area of Law: Small Claims Court
Answer # 549
Settlement conferencesRegion: Ontario Answer # 549
What is a Settlement Conference?
In the case where a claim is disputed, after both the Plaintiff’s Claim and the Defence have been served and filed, a settlement conference will automatically be scheduled. The settlement conference is held before a lawsuit goes to trial. At a settlement conference, the plaintiff, the defendant, and their representatives (if any), meet with each other in front of a judge, usually in the judge’s office. In Ontario, if the court has the facilities, and a request is made, a settlement conference can be held by telephone or videoconference.
The main purpose of the conference, as the name suggests, is for the parties to settle the dispute without having to go to trial. If a resolution cannot be reached, however, there still are other benefits to holding a conference, including to:
- simplify the issues in the lawsuit,
- to prepare each side if there is going to be a trial, and
- to ensure that everyone in the lawsuit knows all the important facts and evidence.
What happens at a Settlement Conference?
If you attend a settlement conference you should be prepared to talk about the lawsuit in detail, and bring all the important information and documents available. Since information and discussions arising out of a settlement conference are not admissible at trial, it is a good idea to speak openly and try to resolve the matter.
If you are not prepared when you attend the conference, or if you do not show up at all, the judge may order you to pay the other side their expenses for having to come to the settlement conference. If a person does not show up at the conference, the judge may also strike out that person’s Claim or Defence and give judgment for the other side, and no trial will be held. So, it is very important to show up, or to notify the other side and the court if an emergency prevents you from attending.
Attending a settlement conference will usually make the trial easier, and it may even help you settle the lawsuit. In fact, in most cases, a lawsuit settles before it goes to trial because settling saves both sides the time and expense of a trial.
If, however, a settlement is not reached, the court clerk will provide the parties involved with a copy of the Endorsement Record/Order of the Court, which contains any orders that the judge made at the settlement conference. The clerk will also provide each party with a Notice to Set Action Down for Trial that states that one of the parties must request a trial date and pay a fee. If neither party sets the action down for trial, the case will eventually be dismissed.
Special rules for claims under $2,500
If a claim is for an amount of less than $2,500, and an agreement cannot be reached at the settlement conference, either party can ask the judge to decide the case. If the judge does decide the case at the settlement conference, the case ends and there will be no trial. Both the defendant and the plaintiff must consent to this procedure.
For more information about settlement conferences, visit the Small Claims Court website.
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