Small Claims Court Delays add to Costs for users

Our firm always looks at a litigation file that we’re starting from the perspective of how to obtain money (not just a paper Judgment) for our client in the fastest, most economical way possible. This is the viewpoint from which this Blog is written.

In Ontario, you must sue in Small Claims Court for matters that are $ 25 000.00 (without interest) and under. Claims over $ 25 000.00 can also be started in Small Claims Court, however, any amount over $ 25 000.00 will not be awarded.

There are times when it is more cost effective to start matters in Small Claims Court, however, the chronic delays in the Small Claims Court process are making those times few and far between.

It is the norm in Small Claims to have defendants request an adjournment of the first motion date, settlement conference date and trial date. Each of these adjournments can add an additional 3 to 6 months, per stage, to a matter. That can drag a Small Claims Court matter out for many more months, if not a year, than a Superior Court matter.

In Superior Court , adjournments are also generally granted if requested, however, adjournments are generally for a period of two to four weeks, not months.

The advantage of the lawyer controlling the Superior Court schedule creates a big benefit for the client in terms of moving the matter along and obtaining judgment in the quickest time possible.

Ironically, given the speed advantage of Superior Court, an undefended matter can often be litigated for less money and Judgment obtained much more quickly than Small Claims Court.

If your lawyer recommends dropping the amount of your claim to fit into the Small Claims Court limit, make sure that lawyer understands the delays in the system and the impact that can have on your claim.

Inga B. Andriessen JD