Upper limit raised for small-claims court
The upper limit for cases brought before the Small Claims Division increased to $15,000 on January 1, 2015. Previously the court only heard cases under $7,000. Justice Minister Stéphanie Vallée announced the change, October 23, when the National Assembly adopted Bill 14. The bill’s amendments to the Code of Civil Procedure and other provisions takes effect in 2016, but Vallée told the media the upper limit will be increased starting this year.
She said the court, where citizens may represent themselves without a lawyer, has to be more accessible. “This first step in modernizing our justice system will be followed by all the provisions in January, 2016, for a more simple, faster and less costly justice system,” said the minister. Bill 14 also amended the Code to allow “the chief justice or chief judge to order, on his or her own initiative, that a case be transferred to another district . . . . The Tariff of Court Fees was also amended to set the amount of the court fees payable.”
Created in 1971, the Small Claims Division deals with irresolvable disputes between residents and intends to provide a quick and economical solution. The court now hears cases involving sums of money, or the cancellation or termination of a contract, when the disputed amount is under $15,001. Although those appearing before Small Claims represent themselves without a lawyer, consulting a lawyer beforehand remains an option.
The Small Claims Division is also an alternative for small businesses and other organizations with fewer than five employees.