The Ontario Small Claims Court process provides for several types of court hearings and appearances. Here, we discuss one type of Small Claims Court hearings and procedural tools – motions.
Small Claims Court Motions
A motion is a procedural tool that is used to resolve issues that are relevant to a small claims lawsuit, not to resolve the lawsuit itself in its entirety. A motion is, in its essence, a request for the court to order something or other in the context of the case. The party that makes the request is called the moving party, and the other party in the case, which may or may not dispute the request, is called the respondent. Typically, the motion process is as follows:
- the moving party (the party that commences a small claims motion) begins the small claims motion process by preparing motion materials and securing a date for motion hearing with Toronto Small Claims Court, and serving the motion materials on the other party.
- if the other (responding) party chooses to do so, it files responding materials, to argue the issues set out in the motion materials.
- a hearing is held where the small claims court judge reviews both parties’ arguments and decides whether to make the order requested or not.
Common Types of Motions in Small Claims Court
Theoretically, a small claims court motion can be about anything – any order can be requested by a party to a small claims matter. In practice, motion hearings are generally limited to several types of issues, some of which are more common than others:
- Motion to Adjourn a Small Claims Settlement Conference or Trial. This is a motion where a party requests that the court order that a scheduled settlement conference or trial be rescheduled to another date. Generally, this motion is necessary either if the other side doesn’t agree to an adjournment voluntarily, or if consensual adjournments were given so many times that it is the court that requires that an adjournment be requested by motion, to ensure that court resources are not being wasted for rescheduling.
- Motion to Set a Default Judgment and Noting in Default in Small Claims Court. This is probably the most common motion filed in Toronto Small Claims Court. A default judgment is a judgment that the plaintiff (the person who began the small claims lawsuit) receives against the defendant without the defendant’s involvement. Usually, this could be because the defendant did not file a small claims defence with the court, or did not appear for a Small Claims Court settlement conference or trial. If the defendant has a good reason for failing to file a small claims defence or failing to make an appearance, then he or she may a file a motion with the Toronto Small Claims Court (or the Ontario Small Claims Court where the matter was commenced) requesting that the court order that the default judgment be “cancelled” and the defendant be permitted to file a defence.
- Motion for Production of Documents. This type of motion is used when one of the parties to a small claims court matter believes that the other party must provide them with some documents that are relevant to the matter. While the court process is adversarial (meaning that you can’t usually oblige the other party to provide you with documents helpful to your case), in some situations, an order for production of documents may be justified. If this is something you are considering, it is best to contact a paralegal to assess the chances of your request being granted. Please feel free to contact us for a case assessment.
- Motion to Dismiss the Small Claim. This is another relatively uncommon, but occasionally relevant type of motion. This is a motion that a party files asking the Small Claims Court for an order to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim entirely, because it is so obviously frivolous and vexatious that a trial would be a waste of time and resources for the Small Claims Court and the parties. As with the motion for production of documents, this type of motion is rarely used, and the chances of its success must be evaluated carefully. Please feel free to contact our paralegal for a case assessment.
In small claims courts, motions range from the relatively simple to highly technical and complex. Please do not hesitate to contact us for an assessment of your case, whether you intend to file a small claims court motion, or must respond to one.