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Ontario to Expand Access to Small Claims and Simplified Procedure
The majority of civil complaints are resolved through the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, the inherent court of jurisdiction in Ontario. However, obtaining a judgement in your favour through the Superior Court is often slow and expensive.
Clients with smaller claims are often hesitant to embark on a lengthy litigation process when the damages they are seeking are on the lower end of the spectrum.
As an alternative, the Small Claims Court offers a simplified process for clients to resolve a legal issue in a more expeditious and inexpensive fashion. Both paralegals and articling students are permitted to represent clients in Small Claims, reducing potential legal fees.
Since 2010, the maximum monetary claim permitted in Smalls Claims had been limited to $25,000. Any claims above this limit had to have been brought to the Superior Court.
In October 2019, the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General has announced that the maximum claim that can be filed in Small Claims court will increase to $35,000 beginning January 1, 2020.
Clients who currently have an outstanding Superior Court action between $25,000 and $35,000 can now seek to transfer their case to Small Claims if their action was started before the date the new regulations will take effect.
In addition to the increase to the Small Claims Limit, the Attorney General has passed regulation to update Rule 76 Simplified Procedure claims by,
- Increasing the claim limit on Ontario Superior Court of Justice Rule 76 Simplified Procedure claims to $200,000 from the previous limit of $100,000;
- Restricting cost and disbursement recovery to $50,000 and $25,000 respectively;
- Extending examinations for discovery time;
- Limiting the duration of trials to a maximum of five days.
According to Canada’s Attorney General Doug Downey, the above changes are intended to help people and businesses spend less time in courtrooms and less money on costly lawyer fees, while at the same time reducing wait times in the Superior Court of Justice.
What does this mean for our clients? Given the expeditious nature of the Small Claims and Simplified Procedure process, clients can now access justice faster and more affordably. The time and expense associated with bringing an action to the Superior Court of Justice was intimidating and, for many people, unaffordable. Increasing the Small Claims limits will be appealing for clients who want to access justice in a speedy manner while reducing overall legal fees.
Of course, it remains to be seen if the increase of $10,000 will satisfy the objective of shifting the current case burden from the Superior Court to the Small Claims, or whether there will be additional claim limit increases in the future.