Author: Marshall Yarmus
Date Posted: July 19 2019

This office receives this question almost daily from litigants at the Toronto Small Claims Court, Richmond Hill Small Claims Court and other courts.

Costs are usually awarded to the successful party at a trial. Cost awards are in the discretion of the judge, and are subject to the Courts of Justice Act and the Small Claims Court Rules.

The winning party at a trial who is represented by a paralegal, a lawyer, or a student-at-law, may be entitled to a representation fee intended to partially cover their legal fees.

In most cases the representation fee is capped at 15% of the amount of the Plaintiff’s Claim or the Defendant’s Claim.

Costs are always in the discretion of the judge to award or not under all the circumstances. The Courts of Justice Act, the Small Claims Court Rules, and case law provide judges with guidance on the costs to be awarded. There is no minimum costs that must be awarded.

The general rule is that an award of costs at trial in the Small Claims Court, other than disbursements, shall not exceed 15 per cent of the amount claimed. That 15% of the amount of the claim cost award contemplated in the Courts of Justice Act and the Small Claims Court Rules can be increased if the court considers it necessary in the interests of justice to penalize a party or a party’s representative for unreasonable behavior in the proceeding.

Offers to settle properly made under rule 14.07 may attract double cost consequences of failure to accept.

If you hire a paralegal Ontario to represent you at trial where the amount claimed is $35,000.00, you may be entitled to a representation fee of 15% of $35,000.00 being $5,250.00.

If you make an offer to settle in accordance with Rule 14.07 and are successful at trial that $5,250.00 may be doubled to $10,500.00 in costs awarded in your favour.

Contrast that with costs awarded to a self-represented party at trial who may be awarded a limit of $500.00 for inconvenience and expense. The winning party at a trial also usually gets their allowable out of pocket disbursements added to the judgment. This includes court fees, process serving capped at $60.00 per person served, and sometimes travel expenses, postage, and photocopies.

If you have paid a paralegal or a lawyer to prepare your Plaintiff’s Claim or Defence or Defendant’s Claim you may be awarded a $100.00 preparation fee.

If you are requesting costs you will need to cite the specific act, rule, or the case law that allows for it. This is meant to be general information on cost awards that the small claims court may award. This is not intended to be legal advice.

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