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I'm being sued by someone in Small Claims Court. What should I do?
If someone is suing you for $35,000 or less, they can file a claim against you in Small Claims Court. They must file their claim within 2 years of when they first learned about the problem.
You don't need a lawyer to go to Small Claims Court. But you'll probably understand the court process better if you talk to a lawyer or paralegal.
If you earn a low income, you might be able to get legal help from Pro Bono Ontario. Pro Bono Ontario helps with cases in Small Claims Court and Superior Court.
In Ottawa and Toronto, Pro Bono Ontario provides duty counsel lawyers at Small Claims Court. Duty counsel lawyers give advice and can sometimes help you represent yourself in court.
You can also learn about the court process by reading the Small Claims Court: Guides to Procedures on the Ministry of the Attorney General website.
Receiving a claim
If you're being sued in Small Claims Court, you will receive a Statement of Claim from the plaintiff. It will tell you what they're suing for, and why. When you receive this form, it's called being served.
Responding to a claim
There are several things you can do once you've been served. You can:
- ignore the claim
- reply to the claim
- file a counterclaim
It's best to not ignore a claim against you. If you ignore the claim, the court will assume you agree with what the plaintiff is asking for. You may be ordered to pay money or give property to the plaintiff without having a chance to tell your side of the story.
Replying to the claim
If you want to reply to the claim, you must file and serve a Defence within 20 days of receiving the claim. In your Defence, you can tell your side of the story. You can agree with all, some, or none of the claims the plaintiff made against you.
Making a counterclaim
In addition to filing a Defence, you may want to make a new claim of your own. This is called a counterclaim or a defendant's claim.
You can make a counterclaim if you think:
- the plaintiff should have to pay you for something they did
- you think someone else is responsible for the plaintiff's loss
For example, you may want to file a counterclaim if:
- the plaintiff hasn’t paid the bill for a service you provided
- the plaintiff is suing you for breaking something that you think another person broke
If you want to make a counterclaim, you must file and serve it within 20 days of filing your Defence.