Does the Small Claims Court Have the Power to Order Specific Conduct?

The Small Claims Court Is Unable to Grant Requests For An Injunction or Requests For Declarations. The Small Claims Court Is Empowered Only to Grant Various Forms of Compensatory Relief.

Understanding the Powers of the Small Claims Court Involving the Restriction to Handling Compensatory Relief Matters

Available Remedies Within Small Claims Court Matters The Small Claims Court is limited powers division of the Superior Court of Justice rather than a separate and independent forum, within which judges are restricted to granting only certain forms of remedy; and accordingly, parties in Small Claims Court proceedings must seek only the remedies that fall within the jurisdiction of judges sitting in the Small Claims Court.

The Law

The limited jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court imposes restrictions upon the remedies that are available. Specifically, the Courts of Justice Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C-43, as well as the Small Claims Court Jurisdiction, O.Reg. 626/00, regulation, limit the powers of a judge in the Small Claims Court whereas the statute and the regulation respective state:


Jurisdiction

23 (1) The Small Claims Court,

(a)  has jurisdiction in any action for the payment of money where the amount claimed does not exceed the prescribed amount exclusive of interest and costs; and

(b)  has jurisdiction in any action for the recovery of possession of personal property where the value of the property does not exceed the prescribed amount.


Jurisdiction

1. (1) The maximum amount of a claim in the Small Claims Court is $35,000.

(2) The maximum amount of a claim over which a deputy judge may preside is $35,000.

As such, the Small Claims Court is permitted to grant monetary awards to a maximum of $35,000.00 as well as permitted to order the return of property that is valued at a maximum of $35,000; and thus the Small Claims Court is without the authority to grant injunctive relief such as a directive that a person perform specific conduct or cease specific conduct as well as without the authority to grant declarative relief such as an opinion regarding a legal rights issue.

Whereas the Small Claims Court is restricted to the powers as shown above, only remedies that fall within those powers may be sought.  Remedies that may be sought from the Small Claims Court include, among possible others:

  • Claims for actual damages, also known as special damages, being monetary compensation for precisely accountable losses suffered;
  • Claims for general damages, sometimes referred to as non-pecuniary damages, being monetary compensation that is imprecise and incapable of exact calculation such as awards for pain and suffering;
  • Claims for punitive damages, also known as exemplary damages, as a form of punishment intended by the court to show disdain for malicious and egregious conduct;
  • Claims for rescission which involves putting parties back into the same financial position that existed prior to dealings between the parties where such includes ordering the return of property or the return of money or both; and
  • Claims for disgorgement which involve the stripping of ill-gotten gains such as benefits or profits from a wrongdoer and payment of such ill-gotten gains to the victim of the wrongdoing.

Summary Comment

The Small Claims Court is limited in the power to grant remedies. The Small Claims Court is empowered to grant remedies involving the payment of money or the return of property only.  The Small Claims Court is limited to a certain monetary jurisdiction, meaning the sum of money or value of property involved. Currently, the limit is a maximum of $35,000 per party.

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