Important changes coming to the Ontario Small Claims Court in 2020
Some important changes are coming to the court system in 2020. For paralegals, two important changes are coming to the Small Claims Court. The most significant change is that the monetary jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court is being raised by $10,000 to $35,000. This is important for a few reasons. Firstly, certain claims that previously had to be brought to the Superior Court of Justice must soon be brought to the Small Claims Court. This is important because the Small Claims Court is intended to be more expeditious and affordable than other courts. Part of the reason for this is because the court fees required to access the Small Claims Court are lower than those in other courts. Another reason for this is that paralegals are permitted to act in the Small Claims Court and paralegals tend to be more affordable than lawyers.
How does this affect tribunals?
For some tribunals, such as the Landlord and Tenant Board, their monetary jurisdiction is tied to the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court. Essentially, this means that the Landlord and Tenant Board jurisdiction is also being raised to $35,000.
Not all tribunals have their jurisdiction linked to the Small Claims Court, however. For instance, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has a much broader jurisdiction than the Landlord and Tenant Board does. This means that there is much higher variability in the awards from the Human Rights Tribunal. Paralegals can represent clients at the Human Rights Tribunal regardless of the damages sought, however when it comes to enforcement paralegals can only enforce judgments in the Small Claims Court. What this means is, if you are awarded judgment at the Human Rights Tribunal for $35,000 or less, a paralegal will be able to enforce that judgment in the Small Claims Court whereas paralegals previously could only enforce the judgment if it were for $25,000 or less.
Does this have an effect on other courts?
Other courts will continue to act as independent judicial bodies based on their outlined jurisdictions. In that sense, no, there will not be significant changes. However, like tribunals, other court orders are often enforced in the Small Claims Court. For instance, if you are charged with a provincial offence where the fine if $35,000 or less, the prosecutor now has the ability to enforce that fine in the Small Claims Court, whereas they may have previously been required to go to the Superior Court of Justice. This can significantly lower the costs associated with enforcement for both the debtor and the creditor.
The second important change coming to the Small Claims Court is that the appealable limit is being raised from $2,500 to $3,500. The clearest result of this is that you will no longer be able to appeal a judgment if it is for $3,500 or less. An often forgotten aspect of the appealable limit is that, if the claim is for less than the appealable limit it is possible to acquire judgment at settlement conference. All parties must agree to this, and you do forfeit some of your due process, but this is an important consideration because it can save time and money for all parties involved. This is particularly important because for claims under $3,500 it can cost more than it is worth to pursue the claim at trial.