To start a lawsuit in Small Claims Court, you will need to complete and file a Plaintiff’s Claim form with the court. Then you will need to deliver the Claim to the defendants. How and where you file your Plaintiff’s Claim is important because it can help you avoid administrative problems and delays.
How to file
After completing the Plaintiff’s Claim form, you must file it with the Small Claims Court and pay a small court fee. It can be filed in person, by mail, or online.
To submit a claim online, you must have a Service Ontario account, and a Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or online banking account to pay the filing fee. Any supporting documents must first be scanned and saved, then included when filing the claim online. If a claim is submitted online, the court-stamped Plaintiff’s Claim form will be returned to the sender by email, along with instructions on what steps to take next, including delivering copies of the court-issued claim to each defendant. Visit the Service Ontario site for more information on filing your Claim online.
File in person or by mail
If submitting the Plaintiff’s Claim to the Small Claims Court in person or by mail, include all supporting documents, and copies for yourself and each defendant. The court clerk will keep the original Claim and one copy of the supporting documents in the court file. The copies will be stamped and returned to you. One stamped copy is for your records and the others are to be served on each defendant.
If possible, it is best to take your documents personally to the court because the clerk can tell you right away if your claim is incomplete. If you mail them, you might end up wasting valuable time mailing documents back and forth with the court.
There is a small fee which can be paid by cash, money order, or by certified cheque. Cheques should be made payable to the Minister of Finance.
To verify that your Claim has been filed and that the lawsuit is underway, the Small Claims Court office will give you a Claim number to use whenever you are referring to your case. Make sure it is written in the upper right-hand corner of all of your documents.
How to decide which court to file with
An important consideration when you file a Claim is deciding which Small Claims Court to file in because this will be the place where the trial will be held. Although there are many Small Claims Courts throughout Ontario, you must file your Claim at the courthouse where:
- The event took place or problem occurred,
- The person or business you are suing lives or carries on business, or
- The court nearest to where the person you are suing lives or carries on business is located.
You may be required to file an Affidavit for Jurisdiction at the Small Claims Court where you want the trial to be held, which states why you want to have your action in that specific place. The staff at the court can give you the Affidavit form and printed instructions on how to complete it. For more information about the Small Claims Court in Ontario, visit the Ministry of the Attorney General.