Civil Litigation - Suing and Being Sued

We can help you with your civil litigation, whether you are suing one or more people (and you are the Plaintiff) or whether someone is suing you (and you are a Defendant).

If you are being sued, or if you think you might have a case to sue someone else you should consult a lawyer right away. The laws and rules which control lawsuits include requirements that limit the amount of time you have to start a law suit and to respond to a law suit which has been brought against you.

There are three levels of courts which can hear civil law suits - Small Claims Court, Superior Court and Federal Court. It is important to start your claim in the correct court - doing otherwise will delay the hearing of your case and may result in your having to pay the other party's (ies') costs incurred as a result of your mistake. The best way to be sure you are starting your claim in the right court is to consult with a lawyer.

Small Claims Court

The rules in small claims court are much less complicated than the rules in superior court, and you don't necessarily need a lawyer to make or defend a claim in small claims court. But the small claims court is limited to hearing cases involving claims of not more than $35,000.00 (not including interest or costs), or relating to property of a value of not more than $35 000.00, and is also more limited in the types of orders it can make.

For detailed information as to what the small claims court can do and how you can represent yourself you can either call or visit your local small claims court, or use the attorney general's office's small claims court web site which includes links to electronic versions of the (now out of print, no longer up to date, but still useful) booklet "How to Make Small Claims Court Work for You", small claims court forms, Rules of the Small Claims Court and other helpful information.

We can help you with your small claims court matters, either by having one of our lawyers or paralegals represent you or by assisting you to represent yourself.

If you have a matter which is within the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court, and want to discuss having us help you, please contact us and arrange a consultation with our paralegal or one of our lawyers.

An appeal from a decision of a Small Claims Court is heard in the Superior Court.

Superior Court

If your claim is one which can not be made in small claims court, it can most likely be brought in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (some claims must be brought in the Federal Court - these cases usually involve a claim against the Federal Government or one of its departments or agencies). You can represent yourself in Superior Court, but the rules, forms and procedures are made with the fact that most litigants in the Superior Court are represented by lawyers.

Proceedings in the Superior Court of Justice are governed by the Rules of Civil Procedure as well as several laws and regulations including (but not limited to) the Courts of Justice Act and the Limitations Act. Almost all law suits will involve other laws and regulations. Determining which laws and regulations apply to a particular case is best done in consultation with a lawyer.

Depending on the amount of the judgment and other factors, an appeal from a decision of the Superior Court might be heard at the Court of Appeal (for which leave may or may not be required) or by the Divisional Court (which is a branch of the Superior Court).

Federal Court

Some claims must be brought in the Federal Court, and some can be brought in either the Federal Court or the Superior Court. The Federal Court can generally hear claims against the Federal Government, its departments, agencies and tribunals. The authority (jurisdiction) of the Federal Court is, for the most part, set out in the Federal Courts Act.

An appeal from a decision of the Federal Court would be heard in the Federal Court of Appeal.


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Updated 01 April 2020