Small Claims Court FAQ
- What is Small Claims Court?
- Do I need to have a lawyer represent me?
- What is a plaintiff?
- What is a defendant?
- Who can sue and be sued in Small Claims Court?
- What do I need to do if I am suing (making a claim against) a business?
- What is required if the claim involves a motor vehicle accident?
- I am a landlord and I want to sue a tenant. Can I do that at Small Claims Court?
- How much money can I sue for in Small Claims Court?
- How much does it cost to take a person to Small Claims Court?
- Can my claim include the fees I paid to file with Small Claims Court?
- What forms do I need to start a claim?
- How do I serve the documents?
- Can my claim include the fees I paid to have my documents served?
- How long does the defendant have to respond?
- What happens after ten days have gone by since the documents were served?
- What happens if a reply is filed?
- What is a settlement conference?
- What happens if no agreement is reached at a settlement conference?
- What is a default judgment?
- What happens after a default judgment is issued by the Court?
- How do I register my judgment?
- What happens after I register my judgment?
Small Claims Court is a court of law that is designed for ordinary people to handle their own cases. These cases can involve such things as:
- suing to get money that is owed to you, if you had an agreement with someone,
- suing if you were harmed by something someone did, or something they didn’t do but should have, or
- suing to get items back that you believe belong to you.
For more information, have a look at the Small Claims Processes page: http://www.court.nl.ca/provincial/courts/smallclaims/procedures.html.
No. You can have a lawyer represent you if you want but it’s not required.
The plaintiff is the person who starts a claim in Small Claims Court.
The defendant is the person or party that is being sued. The plaintiff makes a claim against the defendant.
The following people or parties can sue and be sued:
- An individual
- A company/corporation or registered partnership
- A municipal, provincial or federal government
- An unincorporated association
- Trade unions
You need to find out if the business is incorporated. To do this, go to the Registry of Companies website at https://cado.eservices.gov.nl.ca/Company/CompanyNameNumberSearch.aspx and complete a detailed company information search. Alternatively, you can also visit the Registry’s office at 59 Elizabeth Avenue, St. John’s to conduct a similar search. If the business is incorporated, you will record the full legal name of the corporation and its registered office address on your Statement of Claim. You will also need to attach the printed search results to this form.
If the business is not incorporated you will need to put the name of the owner and the correct business name and address on the Statement of Claim (e.g. Paul Smith trading as Paul’s Electronics).
The plaintiff must have the original damage estimate or a receipt for repairs, plus two extra photocopies of these items.
No. Most issues with landlords and tenants are covered by the Residential Tenancies Act and are dealt with through ServiceNL . There are some situations where this legislation doesn’t apply, such as business/commercial agreements and certain residential premises, so it’s a good idea to call the Court or check with ServiceNL before filling out any documents.
The most you can sue for is $25,000. If your claim is more than $25,000, you have two options:
- File your claim in the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador or
- File your claim in Small Claims Court, but give up the rights (also known as abandoning) to any amount higher than $25,000.
You cannot divide a claim into several smaller claims to be within the $25,000 limit.
The fees you have to pay to file a claim depend on the amount you’re suing for:
- A claim for up to and including $499.99 is $50
- A claim between $500 and $25,000 is $100
Costs to serve documents are different and are explained below (see question 13).
Yes. The fees can be included on your Statement of Claim.
To start a claim, you must complete a Statement of Claim. When this is done, bring the form to Small Claims Court. An authorized officer of the Court must number, register and sign the documents before they can be served on the defendant.
You can serve the documents on the defendant in several ways:
- You can do this yourself by handing them over personally,
- Send them through registered mail, or
- Pay to have them served by a process server.
Registered mail is a service provided by Canada Post that gives you proof that your documents have been mailed and received. See http://www.canadapost.ca/cpo/mc/personal/productsservices/send/lettersdocuments.jsf#Proof for more information. Process servers, also known as “Fee for Service Deputy Sheriffs”, will serve the documents for you. A listing of these process servers can be found at https://jer-remote.justice.gov.nl.ca/links/deputy.pdf.
Yes, but if the fees exceed $40 or are more than 10% of your claim, you must make an application to the Court on Form 14.
If a Reply is not filed within 10 days (30 days for those living outside Newfoundland and Labrador), the plaintiff may apply to the Court to receive a judgment by default.There is a $10 fee to apply for this. It is also a good idea to contact the Court Centre where you registered your Statement of Claim, just in case the Reply was sent there directly. At this time you might also want to register your judgment. To do this you will need to fill out a Judgment Registration Form, pay the $15 fee (which is in addition to the $10 fee to apply for a default judgment), and file it with the Court. See questions 19 and 20 for more information about default judgments.
If a Reply is filed, the Court may schedule a settlement conference, or a trial date may be set.
A settlement conference is a hearing that happens before the case goes to trial. It gives the plaintiff and the defendant the chance to discuss the claim while a judge is present and possibly come to an agreement without needing to go to trial.
If no agreement is reached at a settlement conference, a trial date will be set by the Court.
If a defendant doesn’t file a reply to a claim within the required time frame, they are in what is known as a default situation. When this happens, the plaintiff can apply to the Court to have a default judgment issued by completing Form 5 and filing it at the same court location where the Statement of Claim was filed. A copy of the Certificate of Service for the Statement of Claim must also be included.
After a default judgment is ordered, you can register your judgment with the Sheriff’s Office. To do this you will need to fill out a Judgment Registration Form (link to form) and file it with the Court. There is a $15 fee to do this.
If you have applied for a judgment by default (see question 15), you may have already registered. However, default judgments aren’t the only time when you’ll have a judgment to register. You may want to register a judgment you received from a judge after your trial. To do this you will need to fill out a Judgment Registration Form and file it with the Court. There is a $15 fee to do this.
The next step is to give the Sheriff’s Office instructions about how to get the money you’re owed. Contact them directly at (709) 729-4646.