Summary Judgment Not Available in Small Claims Court

Caprio v. Caprio, [2009] 97 O.R. (3d) 312 (S.C.J.)

This Small Claims action involved a dispute between family members over whether a grandmother who gave money to her grandson before she died was giving the money as a loan or a gift. The grandson brought a summary judgment motion and sought to have the action dismissed based on affidavit evidence. Deputy Justice Bale refused to grant summary judgment, holding that summary judgment is not available in Small Claims Court. Bale D. J. refused to follow prior decisions where summary judgment had been permitted using section 1.03(2) of the Small Claims Court Rules, which allows a court to refer to the Rules of Civil Procedure where matters are not provided for in the Small Claims rules. The court held that reference to the Rules of Civil Procedure is for minor matters and cannot be used to create a new and substantial procedure in Small Claims, such as summary judgment.

There are cases going both ways dealing with the issue of whether summary judgment is available in Small Claims Court. Given the new increased monetary jurisdiction of Small Claims Court of $25,000.00, this decision has particular importance. There could now be cases that are within the Small Claims Court jurisdiction that were formally within the Simplified Procedure. Cases that would have been in Simplified Rules would have been susceptible to a summary judgment motion; however, if summary judgment is not available in Small Claims Court, the case must now proceed through to trial. There is no mechanism for an earlier resolution of the claim. It may be that the Civil Rules committee should consider whether to clear up this issue by explicitly providing for the existence of summary judgment or prohibiting its use in Small Claims.

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