Area of Law: Small Claims Court
Answer # 536
What is Small Claims Court, and monetary limit?Region: Ontario Answer # 536
What is Small Claims Court?
Small Claims Court is the place where people can resolve relatively minor legal problems. It is a faster and less expensive way of resolving legal problems than going to the higher courts. You do not need a lawyer or any special training to make or defend a claim, as Small Claims Court has simplified rules and procedures. For example, the court provides standard forms and in some cases, even allows the claim to be filed online.
Small Claims Court can hear cases for money or the return of property valued at $35,000 or less. In addition to your claim amount, you can also ask for interest on outstanding debts and the payment of your costs for bringing the lawsuit.
If your claim is for more than $35,000, you must either waive the amount that is over $35,000 in order to bring it to Small Claims Court, or it must be heard in the Superior Court of Justice.
What types of cases are heard in Small Claim Court?
The most common lawsuits fall into three general categories:
1. Breach of contract
You can bring a lawsuit for financial loss as a result of a broken contract. This means that you had an oral or written agreement with someone and they failed to perform certain tasks or obligations. You may also sue for financial loss caused by a defective product arising from the implied promises of quality or performance.
Claims can include:
- unpaid wages
- amounts owing for goods or services purchased
- unpaid loans
- unpaid rent
- property damage
2. Personal injury
If you have been injured in an automobile accident, by slipping and falling in a store or on a sidewalk, or injured by a doctor or other professional, by a defective product, or by a person who intentionally or accidentally hurt you, you may sue for “damages” (money paid to compensate you for your injuries). However, it can sometimes be difficult to determine the cost of your pain and suffering.
If your reputation or that of your business was damaged arising from a false statement someone made about you to others, you may sue for damages. Libel is defamation by the printed word or some permanent form, while slander is spoken.
Suing for damages arising from defamation includes the harm that the defamatory statements caused you. For example, it may have negatively affected your ability to gain employment, or prevented you to secure a business contract. It is up to the person bringing the lawsuit to show what harm was caused, and to justify the amount of damages claimed.
Plaintiffs and defendants
Although you do not need any special legal training to bring a lawsuit or defend a claim in Small Claims Court, you will need to know what to call the people involved in the lawsuit since these names will be used on court documents and at the trial. The person who starts the lawsuit is called the plaintiff. The defendant is the person who is being sued. If there is more than one defendant, the people being sued are called co-defendants.
Refer to the Ministry of the Attorney General for more information about Small Claims Court in Ontario.
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