Small Claims Court is Overloaded

22 years ago when I was an Articling Student, the Small Claims Court limit was $3000.00 except in Toronto where it was $ 6000.00.

I forget exactly when (I’m old) but it was bumped up to $ 10 000.00 across the province and of course, a few years ago, up to $ 25 000.00.

Unfortunately, the increase in the limit, was not accompanied by an increase in the resources (Judges, Clerks, Support Staff) to address the increased volume.

Matters in Small Claims Court are taking, on average 2 years to get to trial if they are defended. Part of the reason for the delay is the repeated adjournment requests that are granted, which cannot be rescheduled quickly.

For example, a Brampton Settlement Conference heard this week was adjourned to late February. A Hamilton Examination in Aid of Execution was adjourned from this week to late March.

The dates for both of the above had been received three months in advance of this week – that is 6 months to get a simple step completed.

That is ridiculous and no doubt, many self represented parties give up in frustration. People have to take time off work to attend (Judges will award costs against you if you simply send your representative to attend a settlement conference) and to have them do it twice due to a lack of resources is not fair.

When our clients have claims that are just in excess of $ 25 000.00 we recommend proceeding with Superior Court – the wait is far less and ultimately, that means the cost (both in lost time and legal fees) is less as well.

I wonder if the alarm bells will ever sound on the problems with Small Claims Court or if it will just continue to grow – hey, maybe the government will increase the monetary limit again!

Inga B. Andriessen JD