You can be sued by anyone who believes that you have violated their rights. Someone may allege for example, that you have: injured him or her and caused a loss; breached a contract; or failed to repay money. If that person alleges you owe them $35,000 or less, they are required to commence their lawsuit in small claims court. A small claims court claim is started by the filing of a plaintiff’s claim. The plaintiff’s claim will describe what is being claimed and why. It may also include documents that the plaintiff believes supports his or her case.
If a plaintiff’s claim is filed against you, the claim must be delivered to you. You are referred to as a defendant. What should you do next?
Defending a claim
You should read the plaintiff’s claim and all attached documents carefully in order to ensure you understand the allegations. In particular, take note of the time limit for filing a response to the claim.
You can fight the plaintiff’s lawsuit if you disagree with all or some of it. In order to fight the lawsuit, you have to file a response called a defence. A defence must usually be completed and filed at the small claims court office within 20 days of receiving the plaintiff’s claim.
In the defence, you will be able to respond to the allegations made in the plaintiff’s Claim.
When filing a defence, you are required to pay a filing fee. The current fee for filing a defence in small claims court is $40. (There may be additional fees at future stages in the action.) The filing fee may be paid by cash, money order, or certified cheque. Cheques are to be made payable to the minister of finance.
You may do more than simply deny the plaintiff’s claim against you. You may believe that the plaintiff actually owes you money, or that some other person is responsible for what the plaintiff is claiming against you. In that case, you may file your own defendant’s claim.
There are serious consequences if you fail to respond to a plaintiff’s Claim in time or at all. The plaintiff may win the case automatically without you having an opportunity to tell your side of the story. It is much easier to respond to the plaintiff’s claim by filing a defence than to attempt to set aside a judgment obtained by a plaintiff because the court did not hear from you.
Even if you agree that you owe money to the plaintiff, it is wise not to ignore the plaintiff’s Claim. You can file a defence admitting owing some or all of the amounts claimed by the plaintiff and propose terms for paying the admitted amount.
The importance of and potential complexity of a legal claim is not determined by its size alone. If you have any questions about the merits of or process for dealing with a small claims court claim against you, do not hesitate to contact a lawyer with litigation experience.
Statement of Claim