Mary Jane McGinty – December 2015
Access to justice is a concern to the legal profession and to MDW Law. Many firms serve large corporate clients to whom legal fees are not a great concern. However, we serve individuals to whom legal fees can be a crushing blow. The Small Claims Court is an invaluable resource for people who need the justice system, but cannot afford a lawyer. It is astounding how many people do not qualify for legal aid, and yet cannot afford to retain a lawyer. The Small Claims Court is designed as an entry level resource for those people. Over the years, its importance and value has been recognized by the legal community, such that the limit to be pursued in Small Claims Court has increased from $2,500 to $25,000, extending the usefulness of this resource to many whose claims are substantial. It is not unusual for a trial to cost legal fees in excess of $25,000, so the Small Claims Court presents an opportunity for people to present their case to an impartial and informed adjudicator, without spending as much or more than they may recover.
Although MDW Law focuses on family, estates and personal injury, we also attempt to remain client-focused. By this we mean that we try to be responsive to our clients’ needs whether they fall within the parameters of our areas of focus or they relate to things that we do not do or only touch upon peripherally. We are happy to advise you about the procedure and nature of the Small Claims Court, and assist you in organizing your claim before the court. This would include identifying useful exhibits, identifying the underlying legal principles, and articulating the pleadings themselves. Two of MDW’s lawyers have been appointed as adjudicators in the Small Claims Court. We appreciate the simplicity of the process and the value of this resource to our clientele. However, we also recognize that even at this level, the justice system can be very daunting.
The Small Claims Court is designed to be inexpensive and informal, however, that does not mean it is not conducted according to established principles of law. This means that there are claims over which the court may not have jurisdiction, such as claims involving title to property, or claims exceeding $25,000. A quick consultation can tell you whether or not your claim falls within the monetary jurisdiction of the court, and within matters under its jurisdiction. Many people do not realize that even in Small Claims Court, if you fail to file a defense to a Notice of Claim, a judgement can be issued against you. Therefore, we urge you to consult us if you receive a Notice of Claim in Small Claims Court so we can consider your defenses and ensure you are protected against a default judgement. We are here to help our clients, but to help them help themselves whenever possible. Contact us at www.mdwlaw.ca or call (902) 422.5881.