Ontario increases claim limit for Small Claims Court

Move expected to cut down Superior Court backlog

Ontario increases claim limit for Small Claims Court
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The Ontario government will implement a higher claim limit of $35,000 for Small Claims Court on Jan. 1, 2020.

According to a statement by the Ministry of the Attorney General, the move seeks to make it faster, easier and more affordable for people and businesses to resolve their disputes in front of a judge. Currently, all claims over $25,000 must be brought to the Superior Court of Justice, which the MAG said is one of the busiest courts in Canada and where litigation could take years to resolve and may require expensive legal representation..

In contrast, Small Claims Court cases often take less than a year to conclude and claimants are not required to hire lawyers or other legal help, the ministry said.

“Our government is increasing the maximum claim limit for Small Claims Court to help people and businesses spend less time in courtrooms and less money on costly lawyer fees," said Attorney General Doug Downey. “As a result of the change, more people will be able to file and respond to claims using less expensive representation, such as paralegals and law students, or through self-representation.”

The MAG said that it expects to see a reduction in wait times in the Superior Court of Justice, as many civil cases that would have started in Superior Court will now go to Small Claims Court. This, it said, allows more resources to be applied towards other pressing cases, including criminal and family cases. The limit was last raised in 2010, from $10,000.

The Ontario Paralegal Association expressed its pleasure with the planned changes.

"This represents a great step forward," said Colleen Wansbrough, second vice-president of the Ontario Paralegal Association. “These changes will cut down wait times in courtrooms, and give parties more cost efficient representation options such as paralegals.”

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