Defending Yourself in Small Claims Court

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Being sued in small claims court can be very stressful. This article explains the procedure for defending yourself against a claim. You have several options, including settling the case through mediation, which is provided free of charge.

Time limit of 20 days to contest the claim

You have 20 days to contest the claim. Public holidays and weekends are counted in this period. You can complete your arguments and provide additional evidence after you have contested the claim. If you don’t contest within 20 days, a judgement could be issued against you, even though you haven’t told your side of the story!

Use the online form to contest the claim

You can use the interactive form on the Justice Québec website to contest the claim. You must explain why you believe the person suing you is wrong and why the judge should dismiss the claim. The form provides step-by-step instructions to help you with this.  

Once you have completed the form, you must print it and send it to the courthouse where the claim was filed, along with any documents you mentioned in the form (for example, a contract, invoice, photos, demand letter, etc.). You can mail this to the courthouse or bring it there in person. You can access the online form here on the Justice Québec website.

Free mediation service

When you contest a claim, you can also ask to go to mediation. The mediation service is provided free of charge, but all parties must agree to take part, in order to use it. You can go to mediation at any time, even on the day of the trial.

Watch our video for more information on mediation in small claims court.

Suing the other party

You can also use the interactive form to claim money from the person who is suing you. Your claim must be related to their claim and can’t exceed $15,000.

For example, a contractor is suing you because you haven’t paid for some work done to your house. But you had to hire someone else to redo the work because it was badly done in the first place. You can sue the contractor for the amount you paid to have the work redone.

Bringing another person into the case

You can bring another person or company into the case if their presence is needed to decide the matter. The interactive form also contains a section for this.

For example, the person who bought your house is suing you because of a hidden defect. If the defect already existed when you bought the house, you could bring the former owner into the case and they could be held responsible.

Paying a portion of the amount

If you accept that you owe a portion (but not all) of the amount being claimed, you can pay that portion. Once you have done this, interest no longer accumulates on the amount paid.

For example, a landscaper is claiming $8,000 from you. You accept that you owe them $3000, but you dispute owe the rest. You can pay $3000 and the landscaper could continue the claim against you for the other $5000.

Asking to transfer the case to another city

Usually the case must be heard at the courthouse nearest your home, that is, in your “judicial district.” But in certain situations, the case can also be heard in another district, for example, where the contract was signed or where the building in question is located.

If you’re being sued as an employee, consumer or as a person insured under an insurance contract, the case should be filed in the judicial district where you live. For a claim involving an insurance contract, however, the case could also be heard in the district where the incident took place.

If the person suing you chose the wrong judicial district, you can ask for the case to be transferred. You must explain why in the interactive form. You can visit the website of the Justice Québec for the different judicial districts of Québec

You can also try to negotiate directly

Depending on the circumstances, you might try to negotiate directly with the person who is suing you. If you reach an agreement, you should put it in writing and contact the courthouse. You can have the agreement approved by the court, and it will have the same effect as a judgment.

But you must make sure not to let the 20-day period to contest expire! You can contest the claim and then continue to negotiate. You can reach an agreement at any time, even on the day of the trial.