By Brian Madigan LL.B.
The jurisdiction of the “small claims” court in Ontario has increased significantly in the last few years. On 1 January 2020, it rose to $35,000.
It had been:
1993 – limit was $6,000
2001 – limit was $10,000
2010 – limit was raised to $25,000
2020 – limit was increased to $35,000
Previously, it had been $1,000, $800, $400 and $200. When it was $400 and less, it was still called Division Court. Truly, we were talking about “small claims” at those points in time.
The stakes were not high and lawyers really didn’t get in the way. It had proven to be an educational training ground for young lawyers. But, the monetary limit increased.
This is a serious matter now. There can be a $35,000 claim and a $35,000 counterclaim. So, over $70,000 can swing in the balance of a decision.
That means more experienced counsel and often more delays. There’s still no pre-trial discovery under oath. Discovery is limited simply to documents. No matter what, it’s still faster than Superior Court.
It is not uncommon for a plaintiff to waive an amount substantially in excess of the monetary jurisdiction simply to get the matter before the Court with a limited number of potential delays. In this regard, waivers of the excess for claims in the $50,000 range are commonplace. That means if you have a $50,000 claim, you waive $15,000, so that you fall within the monetary jurisdiction of the Court.
The procedures are simplified and if the case is resolved, then that might stop further problems in the future, for example, The Court may then have ruled on the interpretation of the wording contained in an agreement. That could be worth “big money”!
Brian Madigan LL.B., Broker