In Ontario, legal claims seeking the recovery of money may be pursued in different courts, and pursuant to different procedures, depending on how much money is being claimed. Smaller claims must be pursued in Small Claims Court. Larger claims up to a certain limit must be pursued to a “simplified procedure” within the Superior Court. Claims beyond that limit, or claims in which something other than a strictly monetary award, must be pursued to the ordinary procedure within the Superior Court.
In structuring our court processes that way, the government has recognized firstly, that litigation can be expensive, such that cheaper alternatives must be available to resolve more modest claims; and secondly, that there exists a backlog of cases, such that faster routes to resolution must be made available to resolve more modest claims.
The Ontario government has recently announced that it will increase the claim limit for claims filed in Small Claims Court, and claims that must be pursued pursuant to Ontario’s simplified procedure.
Effective January 1, 2020, claims up to $35,000 must be pursued in Small Claims Court (up from $25,000), and claims up to $200,000 must be pursued pursuant to the simplified procedure (up from $100,000, and assuming only a monetary award is being sought). Claim in excess of $200,000 must be pursued pursuant to the ordinary procedure.
Other amendments are also being introduced to the simplified procedure, including that trials will be limited to 5 days and a hard limit will be introduced to the amount of legal costs a successful party is entitled to recover from the unsuccessful party.
These amendments represent a further effort on the part of the government to reduce wait times in courtrooms and reduce the cost of litigation.
When only monetary compensation is being sought in a litigated dispute, and the amount being claimed is not significantly more than the Small Claim Court’s monetary limit, or the monetary limit for simplified procedure claims, there may be real advantages to litigating that dispute in the Small Claims Court or pursuant to the simplified procedure. Both of those options can represent a significantly cheaper and faster route to recovery because they offer the parties fewer procedural entitlements that may be more appropriate only when larger sums are in dispute. Also, paralegals and articling students are permitted to represent clients in Small Claims Court.
You should consult with a litigation lawyer to consider what strategy is best for you to pursue your dispute.