Area of Law: Small Claims Court
Answer # 546
Preparing a DefenceRegion: Ontario Answer # 546
To defend a Small Claims Court lawsuit, you must file a Defence within 20 days of receiving a Plaintiff’s Claim. If you do not file a Defence, the plaintiff may automatically win the lawsuit and be able to collect money from you. To file a Defence, you should use the standard Defence form available online or from a Small Claims Court office. If there is more than one plaintiff or defendant, you must complete an Additional Parties form and put it behind page one of your defence form.
There are three basic sections of the Defence form that must be completed.
Plaintiff and defendant information
In the first part of the form, you are required to identify the court and the parties involved in the lawsuit. This basic information can be found in the Plaintiff’s Claim. Where it says plaintiff, you should write the name, address, and telephone number of the person suing you, and the name, address, and telephone number of the plaintiff’s lawyer or agent, if there is one. Where it says defendant, you should write your own name, address, and telephone number.
Make sure that you fill in the Claim number that is on the Plaintiff’s Claim. There is a box for the Claim number at the top corner of the Defence.
In the next section of the Defence, you need to check-off one of three boxes that best describes your response to the lawsuit.
If you do not admit any of the plaintiff’s claims, or if you deny that you owe any money to the plaintiff, you should check off the first box, which says “I dispute the claim made against me”.
If you accept that the claim made by the plaintiff is valid, and that you owe the money claimed, you should check off the second box, which says “I admit the full claim and propose the following terms of payment.” If you are admitting the claim, you should carefully check the amount being claimed to make sure that it is accurate. Also, if you are not going to pay the claim in one lump-sum payment, then fill in the payment terms that would be best for you.
If you admit that you owe some of the amount claimed, but not all of it, then you should check off the third box, which says “I admit part of the claim in the amount of __ and propose the following terms of payment.” There is a space for you to write in the amount that you admit you owe. Be sure to fill in this part.
If you are admitting you owe all or part of the claim, and you are proposing a payment plan, make sure that the plan is one that you will be able to carry out until the debt is paid off. If the plaintiff accepts your payment plan, they will get a judgment from the court for that amount and they will be paid according to your plan. If the plaintiff does not accept the payment plan, they will still get a judgment for the amount that you have admitted you owe, but the payment terms will still have to be worked out.
If you have admitted you owe part of the amount claimed, the plaintiff may still proceed to trial to prove that you owe the entire amount.
Reasons for disputing the claim
The third part of the Defence gives you space to write the reasons why you are disputing the Claim. The first part of this section prompts you to explain what happened, where it happened, and when it happened. On the blank lines, you should write a separate, short paragraph for each point you are making. You may want to list all the facts that you agree with. For example, if the Plaintiff’s Claim says that you entered into an agreement, and that is true, then you should say so. The second part of this section asks you to state why you disagree with all or part of the claim.
Use this third section of the Defence form to list the facts that you are going to use to prove your side of the case. You do not have to follow the Plaintiff’s Claim in filling out this part of your Defence. You may write down your own version of the events. Make sure that your statements are clear and readable, and try to be brief. If you run out of space for this section, you can attach extra pages to the Defence. Check the box “Additional pages are attached because more room was needed.”
If you are relying on documents that are not attached to the Plaintiff’s Claim, you should make sure to attach a copy to your Defence. This would include contracts, leases, receipts, payment records, cancelled cheques, and similar documents. If you are relying on a document but you do not have it in your possession, you must write on the form the reason you do not have it. To complete the Defence, you must sign and date the bottom of the form.
After you have filled out the Defence, you will need to file it at the court office where the plaintiff filed the original claim, together with a fee. You will also have to serve your Defence on the plaintiff. To show that the plaintiff was served with the Defence, you will then have to complete an Affidavit of Service and file it with the court.
If you believe that the plaintiff owes you money, or that someone else is responsible for the plaintiff’s loss, you should make a claim of your own by filing and serving an additional form called a Defendant’s Claim.
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. 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 a trial date will be set.
Visit the Ministry of the Attorney General for more information about Small Claims Court in Ontario.
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