Even though being sued in a Toronto small claims court is not nearly as serious as proceedings in a higher court of law, it is still intimidating. Of course, there is also the issue of money, especially since in January 2010, the amount of money an individual can now sue for in this court has increased from $10,000 to $25,000.
Rather than feel a sense of panic after being served a notice of claim, there are specific things to consider that will certainly help with a defense. A defendant needs to read and understand every word on the documents served. Sometimes, verbiage used on legal documents is confusing so if necessary, an attorney can assist.
Someone served to appear in small claims court should never just ignore the call to action, hoping that somehow everything will just go away. The reason is that if the notice of claim is not responded to within the set period of time, the plaintiff wins by default. Therefore, even if an individual knows that money is owed, it is always best to respond and handle things in small claims court Toronto.
Often, there will be information or dollar figures listed in the notice of claim that are incorrect. For example, a person could be sued for what the plaintiff says is an unpaid $1,500 loan when in truth, the defendant only borrowed $1,000 or perhaps nothing at all. Using the information provided in the documents served, the defendant can start by writing down their side of the story in great detail.
To respond to a notice of claim, the defendant needs to file a defense on Form 9A, which is available at the courthouse and online. On this form, the individual has the opportunity to explain what, if anything, is being disputed and why. If the defendant is still a minor, a legal guardian will have to represent, which involves completing the Guardian Form 4A.
To formally dispute a claim, a defense form needs to be filled out, followed by copies of the completed form being served to every party listed on the notice of claim but also maintaining one for the defendant. With this done, an affidavit of service (proof of service) for every party served is filed at the courthouse.
After receiving the notice of claim, the defendant has just 20 days to respond by filing the defense form. After the 20-day period, as long as the plaintiff has not filed notice of default, the defense will be accepted by the court. Otherwise, the plaintiff wins by default.
One of the most important aspects of filing a defense is making sure everything is complete. For example, if there is more than one defendant being sued, the form needs to clearly state on whose behalf it is being filed. In addition, legal names, as well as contact information must be provided for every plaintiff and defendant listed. If there is more than one litigant on either side, a Form 1A for Additional Parties is completed and attached to the original defense form.
It is also important that the defendant write his or her name exactly as it appears on the notice of claim form. If the individual’s legal name is different from what the plaintiff wrote down, the error needs to be indicated and clarified on the defense form. The same applies for the address where the defendant lives.
Using the court address and number from the notice of claim, the information will be added to the defense form. In addition to the form, all evidence relating to the case needs to be gathered. This could be in the form of a contract, promissory note, letter, text message, video, receipt, and so on. The more solid information a person has the better the defense.
It is also recommended to bring two copies of everything to small claims court, one for the defendant to refer to and one to present to the judge. Evidentiary material should also be well-organized, allowing it to tell a chronological story that flows. Some people prefer to use binders, some have numbered tabs, and others simply highlight pertinent information.
If the defendant chooses to sue the plaintiff, a counter-claim can be filed along with the defense form. To maintain good character, this type of claim needs to be valid, not just something made up in retaliation for being sued. Just as with defending a claim in small claims court, the defendant will need to bring substantial proof for the counter-suit.