Small Claims Representation
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Is Small Claims Still The People's Court?
It has often been said that the Small Claims Court was intended to be the “people’s court,” a court where members of the public could represent themselves in respect to minor civil disputes, thus ensuring the public’s access to justice and providing a means by which parties could settle their differences without the sometimes prohibitive costs of the representation of Lawyers. This was and to some extent still is the nature of the Small Claims Court as members of the public are still able to represent themselves in civil actions before the Court and obtain resolutions to their issues.
However, the Court has evolved over the years with the commencement of the Paralegal Profession and the steadily increasing monetary limits of the Small Claims Court which years ago was restricted to claims up to 6 thousand dollars and has increased over the years to 10 thousand dollars, then 25 thousand dollars and as of this year increased again to 35 thousand dollars. While parties can still represent themselves before the Small Claims Court with the increase in the monetary limit has come the potential for substantial financial losses and the complexity of the matters being adjudicated on.
It is due to this increased risk and complexity that it is important to consider obtaining the assistance of a Paralegal both to assist you in navigating the forms and procedures required to have your matter reviewed by the Court and to ensure that whether defending an action or making a claim that you understand the issues and have them competently presented to the Judge. This position is illustrated by the Court in the case of Kaur v Singh, 2015 CanLII 56070 (ON SCSM) when discussing the problems arising when an individual represents himself and perhaps not presented his Defence as well as it should have been or in consideration of facts and law that could have assisted him. The Court in this case said;
“11 Taking into account that the Defendant is self-represented, I will explain my findings in as simple language as possible so that he understands the ruling of the court. In order for a court to make an unbiased, sound judgment, it must be based upon evidence; that is “real evidence” that is demonstrably before the trier of the fact at the time.”
“12 One of the essential ingredients in the trial is for a judge to make careful observation, not only of what a witness is saying in evidence, but the manner of the person’s demeanor. Having said that, in my observations, and based upon the exhibits provided, I have no reason to disbelieve the evidence given by both the Plaintiff and her husband.”
“13 The Defendant complains that despite the fact that both the Plaintiff and her husband told the court that the funds withdrawn from their Bank of Montreal account were given to him, this is still not sufficient evidence upon which the court can conclude that the monies were given to him. This would equally apply to the two, $500 advances given when Defendant initially arrived in Canada and then went off to Montreal.”
“14 In reviewing the bank statements filed as an exhibit at trial, it is clear that the Plaintiffs had significant funds in their account and certainly there was no reason for them to kite cheques as alleged by the Defendant. I do believe that the Plaintiff and her husband treated the Defendant as “family” in advancing him funds, to help him get on his feet in Canada. The Defendant, himself, made it clear that he had no money and had to resort to social assistance. The Plaintiff and her husband believed that bulk of the money they advanced to the Defendant, was used to retain his immigration lawyer in Quebec.”
“15 It is for all of the reasons above, that I find that Plaintiff has proven her Claim, certainly beyond a preponderance of the evidence.”
As suggested sometimes the matters before the Small Claims Court can be complex, dependant on the presentation of the right evidence or subject to the proper presentation of the applicable law to the circumstances before the Court in order to properly defend a claim or to successfully make a claim. Because of this, paralegals and small claims court can be a very good fit.
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Mississauga, Ontario L4W 4J4, Canada