The Provincial Court of Saskatchewan handles civil claims valued at $30,000 or less and is known as Small Claims Court. The Small Claims process is meant to be accessible for self-represented litigants, with the Court focusing on the facts of the claim rather than procedural technicalities.
Below is a summary of the Small Claims process whether you are the party starting the claim (Plaintiff) or defending the claim (Defendant).
The Plaintiff is the party bringing the claim to Court. If you’re considering commencing a claim, you may want to first send a demand letter to the other party that lays out your proposal to settle the matter along with the length of time that your offer is open to acceptance.
If the matter doesn’t settle once the other party has time to consider your offer, the next step is to complete a Statement of Claim. It’s recommended that your Statement of Claim follows this format:
- Provide a brief description of the Plaintiff and the Defendant (i.e. location, individual or corporation, etc.);
- Lay out the basis for your claim by describing all of the reasons you feel entitled to judgement against the Defendant and the facts that support your position;
- If you sent a demand letter, state in your claim that you’ve made offers to settle this matter but the Defendant did not accept these offers;
- Finish the document by listing in point form the things you as the Plaintiff are claiming, which typically include:
- Judgment against the Defendant for the value of your claim;
- Interest on the amount of your claim; and
- Any costs the Court sees fit to grant in your favour.
Your Statement of Claim, along with a copy of all the documents you’ll be relying on to support your claim, must be filed with the Provincial Court in the judicial centre closest to where your claim arose. The Court will review your claim and if it’s considered to have the required merit, a Summons will be issued that assigns a date for the First Appearance of your claim in Court. Note that there is a $100.00 fee for filing your claim with the Provincial Court.
Next, you will need to serve the Defendant with the Summons, your Statement of Claim, and a copy of your documents. A few acceptable methods of service include sending your documents by registered mail or personally serving the documents on the Defendant. Once the Defendant has been served, you must provide the Court with proof of this by filing an Affidavit of Service.
The Defendant is the party defending against the Plaintiff’s claim in Court. If you’ve been served with a Summons, it’s important that you respond or a judge can issue default judgment against you for the amount that is claimed and costs.
To inform the Court and make the Plaintiff aware that you are going to defend the claim, you must complete a Reply that summarizes the reasons you feel the Plaintiff should not receive judgment against you. This Reply, along with the documents you will be relying on to support your defence, must then be filed with the Court and served on the Plaintiff at least 10 days before the scheduled First Appearance. Note that there is a $50.00 Court fee for filing your Reply with the Provincial Court.
If you feel that the party who brought the claim against you is instead liable to you, you can start a Counterclaim in addition to your reply. If you feel another party is liable for the claim that was brought against you, you can make a Third-Party Claim in addition to your reply. If someone has commenced a claim against you and you feel that either of these situations apply, feel free to contact our office for help.
Both parties should show up to the First Appearance prepared to speak to the merits of their claim or defence. The next step after the First Appearance is a Case Management Conference, where both parties will discuss their case with a judge in order to try and settle the matter. If no settlement is reached, then a trial date will be scheduled for a judge to hear the case and provide a decision.
Both parties should also make reasonable efforts to settle the claim throughout the entirety of the Small Claims process. A claim can be settled at any point up to the conclusion of the trial and the Court will continuously assist the parties in settling the matter in order to avoid spending unnecessary time and resources moving the claim forward.
A common misconception about Small Claims Court is that you can claim against the other party for legal fees in the event you’re successful in your claim or defence. In Saskatchewan, the costs that can be awarded in a Small Claims matter are governed under The Small Claims Act, 2016, SS 2016 c S-50.12 and The Small Claims Regulations, 2017, RRS c S-50.12 Reg 1. Considering these authorities together, the following costs can be awarded in a Small Claims matter in Saskatchewan:
- Section 36(1) – Costs the Court deems appropriate, including the prescribed filing fees, costs incurred to effect service, and fees paid to a witness.
- Section 36(2)(a) – When a party fails to attend Court or prepare for any stage of a proceeding (limited to $200.00 for each instance, except in exceptional circumstances).
- Section 36(2)(b) – When a party takes steps to delay a proceeding or increase the costs of another party (limited to $500.00 for each instance, except in exceptional circumstances).
- Section 36(3) – Costs that the Court deems appropriate when considering the factors listed under this subsection of the Act (these costs shall not exceed $200.00 or 10% of the claim).
Saskatchewan’s Small Claims Act expressly states that lawyer-related costs may not be awarded, so parties should consider this when deciding whether or not to commence a Small Claims action, as well as during settlement discussions.