This is really a question of two parts:
- Which type of court do I make a claim in, and
- Which particular courthouse do I make a claim in.
So, let’s answer it in two parts. First:
In Ontario, the type of court you sue a person in depends on how much you are suing for. If you are suing for less than $25,000.00, you can make your claim in the Small Claims Court. This is usually to your advantage, because:
- The Small Claims Court procedure is simpler
- The court fees are lower
- The time to resolution of your case is shorter
- You can be represented by a paralegal, at a cost significantly lower than that of a lawyer
If you are suing for more than $25,000.00, you can forego the amount in excess of $25,000.00, and, specifying the same, file your claim in Small Claims Court. This may make sense if the sum you are owed is somewhat more than $25,000.00, such as $30,000.00 – $35,000.00. What you forego in the amount of your claim, you may well save in time, legal and court expenses.
If your claim is for an amount significantly more than $25,000.00, then, of course, you would probably want to make your claim in the Superior Court of Justice.
If you think the Small Claims Court is right for you, read on. The second part of the decision is the particular courthouse. Every major municipality in Ontario has its own Small Claims Court. Smaller towns may have satellite courts, served by courthouses in larger municipalities (sort of like a court “branch”) or may be served by the nearest Small Claims Court of another city. This doesn’t necessarily mean you can go to the court nearest your home, however. Rather, you must file your claim in the courthouse which serves the jurisdiction (geographical area) in which:
- The defendant resides, or
- The cause of action took place.
The first of those is rather straightforward. You can file your claim in the city where the person you are suing lives. So, if he or she lives in Toronto, you would file your claim in the Toronto Small Claims Court. If you are suing a corporation, the claim should be filed in the city where the corporation has an office.
The second may require a little more explanation. The cause of action is the reason you are going to court – the event that caused you damages. For example, if the defendant borrowed money from you at your home in Brampton, you may file the small claim in the Brampton Small Claims Court. Or, if you are filing a claim because the defendant’s dog attacked your cat in Richmond Hill, you may file a claim in the Richmond Hill Small Claims Court.
Sometimes the location of the cause of action is somewhat harder to establish, such as when we are dealing with an online transaction that’s gone wrong. Generally, for an online transaction, we file the claim where the defendant resides, or, on occasion, where the plaintiff carries on business (assuming this is where the cause of action took place).
Other times, you may have two options for where to file your claim. Perhaps the defendant lives in Richmond Hill, but the cause of action took place in Toronto. In these situations, consider:
- Which is most convenient for you? This is fairly straightforward – where would you prefer to attend?
- Which Small Claims Court is less busy? Some of the major courts, especially the Toronto Small Claims Court, serve very large jurisdictions that process a lot of claims. This can mean that the resolution of your case would take longer. Smaller courthouses generally schedule appearances faster.
You can find the list of Small Claims Courthouses here.
Consider your choice of jurisdiction carefully, and don’t hesitate to contact us for a case assessment.