Unlike other higher court lawsuits, the Ontario small claims court is fairly streamlined and relatively efficient. The Ontario small claims court has three general stages (not counting motions or other interlocutory proceedings which will be discussed in a separate article). This article, in 3 separate installments, will outline the 3 stages of a small claims court lawsuit. The first stage, exchange of pleadings, is discussed here.
Stage 1 – Exchange of Pleadings
The Plaintiff prepares a Form 7A Plaintiff’s Claim setting out, amongst other things, how much he or she thinks he or she is entitled to claim from the Defendant and why. The Plaintiff’s Claim is very important because it is generally the first small claims court document that the trial judge will review. After completing the Plaintiff’s Claim, the Plaintiff issues the Plaintiff’s Claim with the small claims court. There is a $75 issuing fee.
After completing the Plaintiff’s Claim, the Plaintiff serves the Plaintiff’s claim on the Defendant in the manners allowed under Rule 8 of the Rules of the Small Claims Court. The manner of service includes such methods as personal service or even service by mail. See the article entitled Serving the Plaintiff’s Claim for more information on service of the claim.
After the Defendant is served with the Plaintiff’s Claim, the Defendant has 20 days to file the Form 9A Defence to Plaintiff’s Claim with the small claims court. The Defence sets out, amongst other things, why the Defendant feels that the Plaintiff is not entitled to the amount claimed by the Plaintiff. This document is also crucial because it is the first document of the Defendant that the trial judge will review.
After completing the Defence, the Defendant files it with the small claims court. There is a $40 filing fee for the Defence. The Defendant must ensure to file the Defence within the time prescribed by the Ontario Small Claims Court Rules, or risk being noted in default.
Once the Plaintiff’s Claim and Defence are exchanged, the pleadings, i.e. the Plaintiff’s Claim and Defence, are now closed and the matter is ready to proceed to the Settlement Conference.