Small Claims Court Maximum Claim Increase
Effective January 1, 2020 Ontario is increasing the maximum claim that can be filed in the Small Claims Court from $25,000 to $35,000! This will significantly increase the public’s ability to access cost-effective litigation of debts and damages that would otherwise take years in the Superior Court General Division as the Small Claims Court process can be completed in just a few months to reach mediation or about a year if a matter proceeds to trial.
Benefits of the Increase
The two main reasons that the Provincial Government has decided to change the maximum amount that can be claimed in the Small Claims Court are: 1) Access to Justice and 2) Efficiency.
- Access to Justice:
Our legal system operates under the belief that justice should be available to all equally; that should someone have a wrong perpetrated against them or dispute an allegation, the legal system is available to settle the conflict. The Small Claims Court is cheaper than going through the Superior courts as the filing fees are less and the process is much faster. This helps in terms of access to justice. Where someone who was seeking $29,000, for example, they would be required to pay the more expensive Superior Court fees or forgo the $4,000 to go through the Small Claims Court. Thus, this increase in the maximum amount that can be claimed in Small Claims Court helps alleviate some of the issues surrounding access to justice. Furthermore, persons bringing matters to the Small Claims Court can be represented by paralegals as well as lawyers. Paralegals are usually more experience in small claims and more cost effective than lawyers. Therefore, the fact that the maximum claim amount has increased means that more people will have greater options as to who they wish to represent them.
The Small Claims Court provides a quicker way to settle disputes because it implements a simpler system. In fact, Rule 1.03(1) of the Rules of the Small Claims Court states that: “These rules shall be liberally construed to secure the just, most expeditious and least expensive determination of every proceeding on its merits.” This shows in the process. For example, the Superior Court of Justice requires the parties participate in mandatory mediation. Mediation is a formal process by which a neutral third party facilitates communication between the disputing parties and, hopefully, assists them in reaching a mutually acceptable resolution. Although the Small claims Court does require a mandatory settlement conference, this process is not as strenuous as mediation
What about Costs?
It is important to note that although the Small Claims Court has a “maximum claim amount” this amount does not include any costs or interest awarded to the successful party. In the Small Claims Court, successful parties are able to claim pre-judgement interest (the time between when the cause of action arose to the day before judgement is granted) and post-judgement interest (which accumulates from the day judgement was granted until the claim amount awarded is paid). This means that with the increase to a maximum claim amount of $35,000 there is greater potential for our clients to gain more from their legitimate claims. We at SW Legal Services Professional Corporation are very excited about this new development! No matter how much your Small Claims Court claim is, we understand that your time and money are valuable. Let our team at SW Legal Services provide you with the advice and representation you need to get your Small Claims Matter Resolved. Call in to set up a free half-hour consultation today!