Getting To Know The Ontario Civil Court System: Where to Initiate a Proceeding
Read time: 2-3 minutes
Attempting to navigate the Ontario civil court system, even if you are an experienced litigant, can be very challenging. Here is some helpful information if you are considering initiating a civil proceeding in the Ontario Court system.
When commencing a civil proceeding, the claim can be brought in either the Superior Court of Justice or the Small Claims Court. The Small Claims Court is a branch of the Superior Court that is intended to be both quicker and easier to navigate. The information below outlines the key differences between the two Courts.
Small Claims Court
- Claims up to $25,000 can be brought here
- Claimants can choose to waive the excess amount over $25,000, if they want to have a claim amount up to $25,000 heard in the Small Claims Court. However, by doing this, claimants waive their right to later claim the excess amount in Superior Court
- Only documentary evidence needs to be disclosed to the other side prior to trial
- Issuing and filing fees are less expensive than the fees for the Superior Court
- Trials are simplified and typically last one day
- Trials are usually heard by a deputy judge, which is a senior lawyer who has been appointed as deputy judge for a term
- Costs are typically awarded for reasonable legal fees in an amount up to 15% of the amount being claimed, plus reasonable disbursements
- Costs can occasionally be awarded in an amount up to double 15% of the claim amount. This would occur where the successful party made an offer to settle, which was refused by the other side, and then received a judgement at trial that was better than their settlement offer
- More information regarding rules and procedures can be found in the Rules of the Small Claims Court
Superior Court of Justice
- There is no monetary cap on the amount that can be claimed
- The issuing and filing fees are more expensive
- In addition to documentary evidence, oral examinations are held for each party
- Trials are more formal and could last several days or even weeks
- Trails are heard by a judge
- Judges have greater jurisdiction in the remedies they can grant
- Typically, costs are awarded on a partial indemnity basis, covering around 50% of your legal fees plus reasonable disbursements
- Costs can be higher in specific circumstances, where they are awarded on a substantial indemnity basis. Substantial indemnity might occur where the successful party made an offer to settle, which was refused by the other side, and then received a judgement at trial that was better than their settlement offer
- More information regarding rules and procedures can be found in the Rules of Civil Procedure
Something to Think About
It is important to remember that, in addition to the monetary costs of litigation, there are also a lot of non-monetary costs such as the time you will have to invest and the stress that will likely result from the proceeding. If you are thinking about commencing a proceeding, in either jurisdiction, you need to decide what you think you will be able to get out of the claim and compare that amount to the monetary and non-monetary costs of litigation. A simple cost-benefit analysis.
Please contact Michael Paiva for more information about possible claims, or if you have been served with a claim and require a diligent defense.