Small Claims Court v Summary Judgment Motions

In Ontario monetary claims for $25,000 or less are supposed to be heard in Small Claims Court. If a claim is brought before the Superior Court of Justice and the Court awards the plaintiff less than $25,000 the Court may refuse to award the plaintiff costs of the action as punishment for failing to bring the before the Small Claims Court.

The problem with the $25,000 monetary limit in wrongful dismissal cases is that judges have a great deal of discretion when deciding a plaintiff’s entitlement to reasonable notice of dismissal. In particular, cases involving short service employees have a wide range of outcomes. As a result, it is not uncommon for the range of possible outcomes in a wrongful dismissal action to overlap the $25,000 monetary limit. The dismissed employee is placed in the unenviable position of having to decide whether to limit their claim to $25,000 or claim a higher amount and risk the possibility that the judge will refuse to award costs if the damage award is ultimately less than $25,000.

A recent Superior Court decision gives some comfort to dismissed employees deciding whether to proceed in Small Claim or Superior Court. In Asgari v 975866 Ontario Ltd., 2015 ONSC 7508 the plaintiff commenced his action in Superior Court claiming $37.083.33 for the defendant’s failure to provide the plaintiff with reasonable notice of dismissal and $6,000 for failure to pay tuition. A claim for punitive damages was abandoned before trial.

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