On October 23, 2019, the Ontario government confirmed that we would be seeing major changes to the Court rules coming this January 2020.
First, the monetary limit of Small Claims Court will increase from $25,000 to $35,000. Second, we can expect major amendments to rule 76 of the Civil Rules of Procedure, which governs cases where the amount that you sue for is over $25,000 and under $100,000. The goal of these changes is to bring better and more expeditious access to justice to the Ontario population.
Monetary Change of the Small Claims Court
Traditionally, the monetary limit for the Small Claims court has been $25,000 since it was amended in 2010 from $10,000. Small Claims Court serves as a more flexible, expeditious, and cost-effective way of dealing with a lawsuit. With this change, we can expect that the wait times of the Superior Court will likely decrease as many of the civil lawsuits that would have been started in the Superior Court will now likely go to the Small Claims Court.
Claims over the $35,000 monetary limit may still be brought to Small Claims Court for individuals willing to waive the excess amount. It may be more beneficial to carry out a lawsuit at Small Claims Court as it will be dealt with much faster and cheaper than at the higher courts.
Lawsuits may also be transferred from the Superior Court to the Small Claims Court as long as the claim falls within the monetary jurisdiction of $35,000. Lawsuits already filed in the Small Claims Court may also be amended up to the $35,000 monetary jurisdiction once the limit is changed in the new year.
Changes to the Superior Court Rule Simplified Procedure
Simplified procedure is currently available for lawsuits of $100,000 or less. It serves as a middle ground between claims that don’t quite fall within the current Small Claims jurisdiction of $25,000 but aren’t as complex as those lawsuits over $100,000. The purpose of simplified procedure is to reduce the cost of litigation by reducing the number of procedures that must transpire.
Under the current rule, individuals are entitled to bring a lawsuit under simplified procedure if it is less than $100,000. With the change, larger claims of $200,000 or less may proceed under simplified procedure.
Some other notable changes to simplified procedure include: no more jury trials for civil lawsuits, with a few exceptions; trials will not be expected to last longer than five days; the number of expert witnesses allowed at trial will be limited; and, the costs of litigation will be capped at $50,000 and disbursements capped at $25,000.
Given the rising costs of litigation, this will help to ensure justice is served.