Planning To Sue? Learn These Terms First

Small Claims Court

Every province in Canada and state in the United States has a court like this set up for the name implies, small claims of money. It is also a court where the rules are simplified so that the parties involved can represent themselves if they want to.

It is also known as a court of equity, meaning the main function of the judge is to look at doing what is fair in the eyes of the law even if not everything was done procedurally correct. Each side must bring evidence to support either their claim or defence but parties are given a fair bit of latitude when they haven’t followed all the rules of evidence or form of the court.

How much money can I claim for?

In Ontario, initially the limit was set at $500.00 but over the years it was raised to $3000.00, then $10,000.00 and now it is set at $25,000.00 . You can make claim for more than that but you would have to give up on the rest of the amount over the $25,000.00.

So if you are owed 30,000.00 and do not want to go through the expense of Superior Court, you can still file in the Small Claims Court and declare that you are “abandoning ” the last 5,000.00

The limits in other jurisdictions vary. In British Columbia for instance it is $35,000.00. while In Alberta, it is now $50,000.00.

Jurisdiction – What does it mean?

Generally it means the power to make a legal decision or judgment on an issue. So as outlined above the Small Claims Court would not have jurisdiction over monetary claims of $45,000.00 or a landlord -tenant dispute.

A provincial Superior Court would have jurisdiction over many types matters but not over a Federal issue such as immigration. There are also criminal courts, tax courts, etc. You get the idea.

But In the area of collections, when we use the term jurisdiction we are referring not only to the court with the right jurisdiction but the right geographical area to file the claim in. ie; the proper jurisdiction.

Generally you must file the claim where the defendant resides or where the action arose – that is – where the event that gave rise to the debt occurred.

File in the wrong area and the court will reject your claim.

What if you are in Alberta and someone in Ontario owes you money? Legally the same rules apply, so why not just file in Alberta? After all, you’re already there. True, but often a court judgment has to be enforced because the defendant does not voluntarily comply with the court order and if you have a judgment from a court in Province or State A and your debtor resides in Province or State B you have a problem. Make sure to discuss this with your legal representative before you begin your court claim. There is nothing more frustrating than suing someone, getting a judgment finally and finding out it is not enforceable where the defendant either resides or has assets.

Planning To File a Claim? Learn These Words First

Plaintiff – The party initiating the legal action in court and looking for redress or more commonly money. Also referred to as the Complainant. This is the person or company doing the accusing.

Someone looking for redress or feels their rights have been violated is referred to a petitioner.

They will start the process by filing or having their legal representative file a court claim and having it served on the other side.

Defendant -The party against which the legal action has been initiated. They have to defend themselves. The term applies to private individuals or companies or institutions, there is no difference. In a criminal case this person would also be referred to as the accused.

A claim can be against one defendant or multiple defendants. Each one would have to file a defence if they want to avoid having a judgment entered against them.

Claim – After paying the court a fee this is the document prepared by the plaintiff that is filed with the court, laying out his or her case against the defendant.

The bare minimum necessary in a claim is :

Name address and Telephone contact for defendant

Exact amount you are seeking.

If it is a business to business claim, describe who the plaintiff is and what it does and do the same for the defendant.

For example: The plaintiff is a transport and shipping company registered in Ontario. The defendant is a manufacturer of furniture registered in Ontario.

Next describe in detail the facts that gave rise to the damages unpaid bill you are seeking payment for.

Attach whatever evidence you have to substantiate what you have stated and the amount you are claiming. If there is a provision for interest in your agreement you can ask for that too.

Defense – This of course is what the other side, the defendant will have to write up as a response to the claim and file with the court as well as serve a copy on the other side.

If the claim is unjustified state why this is so, and attach whatever documentation and evidence you have to substantiate your position. If you feel the claim is partially justified you have the option of proposing a payment for part of the claim and asking for the rest of it to be dismissed.