November 30, 2015

Arbitration Awards up to $25,000 Can be Enforced in Small Claims Court

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Arbitration awards can be enforced in Small Claims Court, says a recent ruling from the Divisional Court.

The Divisional Court reinforces the importance of paralegals in making the “justice system more accessible” and describes arbitration in relation to the Small Claims Court as “another parallel process also designed to provide increased access to justice”.

Michael Hassell made submissions as a friend of the Court and are reflected at paragraphs 27-29 of the decision:

[27]  Mr. Hassell submitted that enforcement of judgments in the Small Claims Court is less expensive than enforcement in the Superior Court.  In Small Claims Court, to issue a Writ of Seizure and Sale costs $35.  In Superior Court to file a Writ with the Sheriff costs $100.  Small Claims Court enforcement forms are more user friendly than Superior Court forms.  Paralegals can appear in Small Claims Court enfacement proceedings, but not in Superior Court enforcement proceedings.

[28]  In this case, a paralegal represented the Plaintiff, both on the arbitration and on the motion to enforce the arbitration award before Prattas D. J.

[29]  If arbitration awards of less than $25,000 must be enforced in the Superior Court, paralegals will be precluded from assisting their clients to enforce such awards.

In conclusion, the Divisional Court held:

[40]  In Hodgins, supra, Epstein J.A. noted that in any action in the Small Claims Court for the payment of money within the prescribed limit, the Small Claims Court has been given a “wide grant of jurisdiction”.  The purpose of Small Claims Court is to provide increased access to justice so that private citizens can have ready and inexpensive access to civil justice.  Small Claims Court procedures are simpler and less expensive.  Paralegals are allowed to represent litigants.  These features make our justice system more accessible.

[41]  To apply the words of Epstein J.A. to the circumstances of this case, interpreting the words of s. 23 of the Courts of Justice Act in such a way as to restrict the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court in a manner that would preclude it from [rather than awarding equitable relief], “enforcing arbitration awards mad after the parties have brought claims for monetary relief in the Small Claims Court and then have elected to have those claims determined in another parallel process also designed to provide increased access to justice, and to require them to start a completely new more expensive application in another court to enforce the result” would be contrary to the important intended Legislative objet ice of making our justice system more accessible.

[42]  Here in paragraph 31, the trial judge referred to the Small Claims Court as the people’s court and in paragraph 33 he wrote that the best way to continue to ensure easy access to justice is by enforcing an award through the speedier and less expensive process of the Small Claims Court for amounts within its jurisdiction.  The framework of the Small Claims Court is such as to provide such easy and speedy access to justice and for citizens to be able to see redress to their civil disputes.

Click here for the Divisional Court decision in Evergreen Solutions v. Depositario, 2015 ONSC6664

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