Being sued in Small Claims Courts

This is a translation of  “Being sued in Small Claims ”  published in May 2017, produced in English by CLEO (Community Legal Education Ontario). Japanese Social Services is wholly responsible for the accuracy of this translation, produced with permission of CLEO.

This month’s On the Radar highlights information about being sued in Small Claims Court, as featured on the Steps to Justice website.
Last month’s On the Radar talked about how people can sue in Small Claims Court. They do this when they want the court to order someone to pay them money or return personal property, worth up to $25,000.

How someone knows they’re being sued

Usually someone finds out that they’re being sued when they get a Plaintiff’s Claim [Form 7A] with a court file number on it. The Plaintiff’s Claim will list them as a defendant and the person who is suing as the plaintiff.

What the defendant must do

The defendant must file a defence within 20 days after they get the Plaintiff’s Claim. This means giving a completed Defence [Form 9A] and documents to the court. This form says what parts of the Plaintiff’s Claim they agree or disagree with, and why.
If the defendant does not file their defence on time, the court may make a decision without hearing their side of the story.

Before filing a Defence form

There are things the defendant will have to do before they can file a Defence form, including:

Gathering documents

The defendant needs copies of all the documents that support what they say happened. This might include things like:
・email messages or letters
・receipts and delivery slips

The defendant must make enough copies of the documents so they can:
・keep their own copy
・attach a copy to the Defence form
・give copies to the plaintiff and any other defendants

Completing the Defence form

Once the defendant has all of the information and documents they need, they have to fill out the Defence form and attach any documents that support what they say happened.
There’s more information in the Steps to Justice question called I’m being sued by someone in Small Claims Court. What should I do?

Serving the Defence form

The defendant must give a copy of the Defence form, and any attached documents, to the plaintiff and anyone else listed on the Plaintiff’s Claim. For example, the Claim might list other defendants.
This is called serving the Defence.

Filing the Defence form with the court

Next, the defendant has to file their Defence form with the court. They must also file Affidavits of Service [Form 8A].
They can file these forms at the court office or by mailing them in.
There’s a fee to file a defence. If the defendant can’t afford this or other court fees, they can ask for a fee waiver. They do this by filling out a Fee Waiver Request to Registrar, Clerk or Sheriff.

Making a Defendant’s Claim

If the defendant thinks the plaintiff owes them money or that someone else should have to pay the plaintiff, they can file a Defendant’s Claim [Form 10A].
They must do this within 20 days after they filed their Defence form.

What happens next

Unless the Defence form says that the defendant will pay what the plaintiff wants, the court sets a date for a settlement conference.
If the defendant and plaintiff can’t agree at the settlement conference, the court usually sets a date for a trial.

Getting legal help

People don’t need lawyers to go to Small Claims Court. But they may want to talk to a paralegal or lawyer to get:

・legal advice about what to do based on their situation and what the court might decide
・help with the court process, for example, filling out forms

People with low incomes might be able to get legal help from Pro Bono Ontario.
In Ottawa and Toronto, Pro Bono Ontario provides duty counsel lawyers at Small Claims Court. Duty counsel lawyers give advice and can sometimes help people represent themselves in court.

This email alert gives general legal information. It is not a substitute for getting legal advice about a particular situation.

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