court: How to survive it (and maybe even
certainly not rocket science, but to win
your case before a small claims court judge,
you do have to do some legwork.
If you've kept clear and organized
records, you're well on your way to presenting
a good case.
Top ten tips for winning
For more on this story,
check Marketplace's Gold Medal Award
on Small Claims Court, originally broadcast
on October 5, 1999.
- Don't wait too
Some claims have to be filed
within a certain length of time after
the cause of action occurrs, referred
to as a limitation period. Find out if
your case has one.
- Be patient
You may have to wait several months, depending on the jurisdiction, for the
case to reach the courtroom. You will have your day in court, though.
- Sue the right party
Use your provincial consumer and commercial relations ministry to help ensure
you're not suing the wrong party, particularly if it's a company.
- Show up
When you get your day in court, show up. It may sound ridiculous, but a surprising
number of litigants (and not just defendants) fail to show up and don't
present their case.
- Bring your documents
Remember to bring every piece of relevant documentation; if you're not sure,
bring it anyway. Too much evidence is better than too little.
- Don't forget witnesses
Round up all the necessary witnesses you can. And don't believe that, just
because someone is related to you, you can't bring them along.
- Be courteous
This isn't just a recommendation to be genteel before the bar; outbursts,
rudeness and a hot-headed approach make it hard for your case to be heard
- Don't be intimidated
Although the court experience can be arcane and confusing, Small Claims isn't
the Supreme Court. You can expect the judge and court staff to help you
along the way.
- Don't look for
Many times collecting the money you've won (if you win) requires a special
enforcement proceeding. At that hearing, money can be secured via garnisheed
wages or seizure of personal property.
- Know your titles
Call the judge ‘Your Honour.’ Speak loudly and clearly when addressing
Consumer Tips »