Small claims courts are also known as magistrate courts or county courts, depending on where you live. Small claims courts have as their purpose to try civil cases between private parties; these cases involve monetary amounts that are not particularly large. These courts also sometimes handle other functions, and this is also true in Toronto. Small claims courts do operate independently of superior courts.
If you go to small claims court to present a case, the monetary value of the case cannot be more than $25,000. Some examples of small claims court cases may include tenant and landlord disputes, wages owed by an employer and not paid, or compensation not rendered for services, like plumbing, electrical work, and so on; some clients for example, may refuse to pay for services rendered if they feel the service has been poor.
If you need to file a claim in small claims court, first, attempts to settle things yourself. You must have proof that you've tried to do so, and if you don't, the court is going to penalize you. Try to negotiate an amicable solution with the other party in your case first. If you try for a month and have come to no solution, you've met your legal requirement. If that happens, write down everything you know about your case, and contact a lawyer. Your lawyer will work on your behalf, presenting this information to the court. In addition, you'll need to tell the other party that you're going to go to court to resolve this.
You'll need to bring some things with you to small claims court when you present your case. First of all, you will need to prepare two copies of your claim, one for the court and one for yourself. You will need to pay court fees to file a claim, and the claim form will then be served on the defendant, the other party in your case. You can also present the form to the defendant once the court has stamped the document if you so choose. Other documentation, too, may be involved in your small claims case.
If the court decides it will hear your case, you'll be notified that a final hearing will take place. Two weeks before the final hearing is going to take place, you'll need to send any copies of documents you'll be presenting during your case. If you don't, you'll be penalized and your case will be postponed. One of the penalties you may have to incur is that you'll have to pay all the costs of the suit. Your lawyer can help you get through this process and tell you what to do. The court will set a hearing date; if you can't attend the hearing, you'll need to put this in writing and state your reasons before you send it to the court.
It can be very frustrating indeed if you don't have proper legal representation. When the verdict is handed down, it is deemed final. It's not subject to appeal unless an irregularity has been found in the proceedings or the court did not adhere to the law as it pertained to claim. Only a good lawyer is going to be able to help you find your way through this process. If the defendant is a cooperative, and refuses to cooperate with the court's ruling, you'll waste your time and money in small claims court and may force transfer to a higher court. Besides that, you may lose out on monies owed you that were the original subject of your claim. Because of that, it's very important that you get a good lawyer so that you don't experience these difficulties.