The information provided below is not legal advice, and it may not apply in every situation.
Before making a claim, there are a number of factors you may want to consider, and a number of pieces of information you will need to collect.
1. You Will Need the Legal Name of the Person or Business.
You will need to know the legal name of the person or business and a current residential or business address. It is necessary to have the correct information about who you are suing to properly prepare and serve your claim, and to enforce a judgment if you are successful.
2. Small Claims Court Claim Limits.
You can only sue for money or the return of personal property valued at $25,000.00 (Canadian) or less, not including interest and costs. If the amount of your claim is more than the current limit, you may still choose to use Small Claims Court because it is simpler and less expensive. However, you will have to give up any future attempt to recover the excess amount over the Small Claims Court limit, even in another court.
3. Which Small Claims Court office should you file your claim in?
You must file your claim in the office in the area where one of these conditions applies:
- where the problem occurred (the location of the cause of action);
- where the party against whom the claim is filed (the defendant) lives or carries on business; or
- the court's place of sitting (courtroom) nearest to where the defendant lives or carries on business.
4. Supporting Documentation. WHAT information do you have to support your claim?
Do you have enough evidence to support your claim? You will have to prove your case. Consider what witnesses and/or documents you have to support you. If you do not have supporting documents (e.g. you entered into a verbal agreement) or witnesses, your claim may still be successful. However, if it is just your word against the other person's, it may be more difficult to prove your case.
- Do you have any written evidence or documentation such as a contract? Copies of documents that you intend to use to support your claim must be attached to the claim form if you decide to go ahead.
- Do you have a record of any payments, returned cheques, etc. and/or a clear recollection of what happened and when? You will be required to write in the plaintiff's claim form a short, clear summary of the events that took place and the reasons you think you are entitled to judgment against the defendant.
- Remember, the other party is able to respond to your claim and may give evidence that will affect the judge's view of your entitlement.
5. Considerations You Should Review Before You Sue.
- How long ago did the dispute take place? There may be a time limit on how long you can wait before making a claim. If you are uncertain about what limitation period applies to your case, you should consult a lawyer.
- Can you take time off work or school, etc. to attend at the court office to file documents and/or attend in court for a trial? You can ask at the court office where you intend to file your claim when it is likely that the case would go to trial.
- Is it possible for you to resolve the issue in another fashion? You may want to consider mediation, which is a less formal method of resolving a dispute through a neutral third party. Mediation can be less time-consuming, more flexible, and less expensive than proceeding in court. It can also help you find your own solution to the dispute and preserve your relationship with the person/business.
6. Costs Associated With Making a Claim.
Fees are payable upon filing a claim in Small Claims Court. There are a number of steps in a proceeding which will vary from case to case. Examples of fees that may apply:
- Filing a Claim - $75.00
- Fixing a Date or Trial - $100.00
- Filing a Notice of Motion on Another Party - $40.00
- Issuing a Summons to a Witness - $19.00
There are also fees and allowances that you must pay to witnesses that you have summoned for their attendance and travel to court. In addition, you will have to pay for any interpreters you or your witnesses require, other than bilingual (English or French) interpretation and visual language interpretation. If you are successful and are granted a judgment, the judgment may include the fees you have paid.