Is Small Claims Court Like What Is Shown On TV?
Reality TV Court Shows Are Far Different Than An Actual Small Claims Court Which Is a Genuine Court of Law Operating As a Division Within the Superior Court of Justice. While the Small Claims Court Does Have a Unique Set of Procedural Rules, the Substantive Law Applicable to the Issues In Dispute Remains Unchanged.
Understanding Why It Is the Small Claims Court Rather Than the Simple Cases Court Requires Appreciation of Legal Formality
A case in the Small Claims Court may involve legal issues that are just as complicated, and sometimes even more complicated, than a case in the higher court that handles matters above the $35,000 limit applicable to Small Claims Court (the limit of $35,000 became effective January 1 2020). Do note that court costs and legal representative costs, are exclusive from the $35,000 limit.
The Procedural Law
Just the same as with cases for sums beyond the $35,000 limit that are pursued in the higher court, a case in the Small Claims Court will involve the procedural law regarding the rules for the process of how a legal matter is conducted as well as the substantive law that applies to the actual legal issue in dispute. The procedural law is known as the Rules of the Small Claims Court which is essentially the general how to manual for the process of conducting a Small Claims Court case including what documents, being specific forms, are required as well as the step-by-step manner by which a legal case in the Small Claims Court occurs.
Interestingly, although the Rules of the Small Claims Court are a set of rules, the rules are very flexible and may receive significant latitude by a judge of the Small Claims Court. Additionally, a judge in the Small Claims Court may make reference to the Rules of Civil Procedure, R.R.O. 1990, Regulation 194, where necessary. This flexibility in applying the Rules of the Small Claims Court was confirmed and explained by the Court of Appeal within the reasons for decision as stated in Kelava v. Spadacini, 2021 ONCA 428. Specifically, the Rules of the Small Claims Court and the reasons in Kelava state:
1.03 (1) These rules shall be liberally construed to secure the just, most expeditious and least expensive determination of every proceeding on its merits in accordance with section 25 of the Courts of Justice Act.
Matters Not Covered in Rules
(2) If these rules do not cover a matter adequately, the court may give directions and make any order that is just, and the practice shall be decided by analogy to these rules, by reference to the Courts of Justice Act and the Act governing the action and, if the court considers it appropriate, by reference to the Rules of Civil Procedure.
 The Small Claims Court is a branch of the Superior Court of Justice. It handles nearly half of the civil disputes in the province. The court is meant to provide an efficient, cost-effective forum for the resolution of civil disputes involving less than $35,000. It hears cases in a summary way and “may make such order as is considered just and agreeable to good conscience”: The Courts of Justice Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C.43, s. 25.
 In short, the court embodies the foundations of access to justice: informality, affordability, timely resolution, accessibility for self-represented people and active judicial engagement. By providing access to justice, the court has an important role in the administration of justice for the province.
 The rules are to be read in their entire context having regard to their nature, purpose, scheme, and object. The Small Claims Court Rules, read in their entirety, emphasize facilitating access to justice. They begin with guidance as to their interpretation. Rule 1.03(1) provides:
These rules shall be liberally construed to secure the just, most expeditious and least expensive determination of every proceeding on its merits in accordance with section 25 of the Courts of Justice Act. O. Reg. 258/98, r. 1.03 (1). [Emphasis added]
 To further provide for the achievement of their objectives, the rules give broad discretion to the court. If the rules do not directly address a matter, the court may give directions and make “any order that is just”. In order to implement the order, the practice is to be decided by analogy to the Small Claims Court Rules. Then, “if the court considers it appropriate” the court may refer to the Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 1.03(2) provides:
If these rules do not cover a matter adequately, the court may give directions and make any order that is just, and the practice shall be decided by analogy to these rules, by reference to the Courts of Justice Act and the Act governing the action and, if the court considers it appropriate, by reference to the Rules of Civil Procedure. O. Reg. 78/06, s. 3. [Emphasis added.]
For sources of further helpful information regarding the rules of procedure and forms applicable to the Small Claims Court, see:Learn More About
Rules of the Small Claims Court Learn More About
Forms of the Small Claims Court
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Small Claims Court Rules:
Generally, the Rules of the Small Claims Court limit a costs award for reimbursement of legal fees paid to a qualified representative to fifteen (15%) percent...Learn More
A pleading document, meaning the Plaintiff's Claim or the Defence, is required to provide a clear and concise factual outline of the allegations; however,...Learn More
The document disclosure processes of the Small Claims Court are often described as easy enough for a self-represented layperson without legal training;...Learn More
A good and proper pleading document, again whether the commencing document, being the Plaintiff's Claim or Statement of Claim, or even the responding Defence...Learn More
Upon settling a legal dispute, the law implies and expects that the party on the defensive will require a signed Release from the other party.Learn More
An Affidavit document is a document sworn or affirmed, under Oath, and a document for which the truthfulness of the statements within must be genuinely true.Learn More
Although an inaccurate translation from the literal Latin, the principle of 'stare decisis' may be thought of as the starring precedent setting decision when a...Learn More
Generally, the fresh step rules that apply to the litigation process in the higher courts are inapplicable to cases within the Small Claims Court.Learn More
Generally, the proper courthouse for a Small Claims Court case is the courthouse within the municipality in which the Defendant lives or does business.Learn More
What Is Hearsay Testimony? Hearsay Evidence Is Testimony That Comes From a Person Without First-Hand Knowledge of the Information Such As a Person Whose...Learn More
The pleading documents for a lawsuit should avoid references to any resolution terms discussed.Learn More
The law of issue estoppel relates to legal matters previously disputed and involves the res judicata principles which is Latin for things decided.Learn More
Generally, costs awards in Small Claims Court are limited to actual reimbursement for the expenses incurred for representation (lawyer, student-at-law, or...Learn More
The monetary jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court allows for each Plaintiff to bring claims up to the $35,000 limit; and accordingly, a Defendant may be...Learn More
The law, generally, permits reasonable name corrections as necessary. A correction is often made merely on Consent; however, if a party is unwilling to...Learn More
If a legal error is discovered after a court decision is rendered, generally, an Appeal is required. Only in very rare circumstances will a judge reconsider...Learn More
Significant debate among legal practitioners often arises as to whether the Small Claims Court holds jurisdiction for claims brought seeking equitable relief. ...Learn More
Documents containing scandalous statements that are irrelevant or potentially prejudicial without probative value to court proceedings should be struck from...Learn More