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Judges’ Reasons in Small Claims Court: How Detailed?

Since the Small Claims Court limit increased from $25,000 to $35,000 last year, we will likely see an increase in Small Claims Court lawsuits. This means that judges hearing Small Claims Court trials will be busier than ever.

The question then arises:  how detailed do trial judges’ reasons need to be in Small Claims Court? This issue was addressed by the Court of Appeal in Maple Ridge Community Management Ltd. v. Peel Condominium Corporation No. 231, 2015 ONCA 520.

The Court of Appeal stated that reasons from Small Claims Court must be sufficiently clear to permit judicial review on appeal. They must explain to the litigants what has been decided and why.

However, appellate consideration of Small Claims Court reasons must recognize the informal nature of that court, as well as the volume of cases it handles and its statutory mandate to deal with these cases efficiently.

The Court of Appeal indicated that reasons from Small Claims Court will not always be as thorough as those in Superior Court decisions.

The Court of Appeal stated that appellate courts must take into account the context of Small Claims Court. Failing to do so restricts access to justice by unnecessarily imparting formality and delay into a legal process that is designed to be informal and efficient.

Therefore, while judges in Small Claims Court need to sufficiently explain why they reached a decision, detailed reasons are generally not required.