The penny has dropped for some lawyers when it comes to starting wrongful dismissal actions in small claims courts, Toronto employment lawyer Doug MacLeod tells AdvocateDaily.com.
“For some people, it’s a good alternative,” says MacLeod, principle of MacLeod Law Firm. “A simple wrongful dismissal case where no cause is alleged and the damages are under $25,000 is a really good fit for the small claims process.”
Since the monetary jurisdiction was increased to $25,000 from $10,000, the small claims court has started to hear more wrongful dismissal cases. And it has developed into a viable alternative to the Superior Court.
“It gives access to justice to people who don’t have much money and whose damage claims are not substantial,” says MacLeod, who recently presented a webinar on the topic for more than 100 deputy judges of the small claims court.
The litigation process in the small claims court is usually much quicker than going through the traditional court system and it dispenses with the need of going through the mandatory three-hour mediation (for Toronto-based actions) and discovery, says MacLeod.
Plaintiffs can hire lawyers on contingency and lawyers have the ability to earn up to $7,500 in some situations, which is a far stretch from the $500 ceiling that was previously imposed in small claims court.
Commencing a wrongful dismissal action in the wrong court can be very costly, he adds. The costs associated with mandatory mediation including the cost of a mediator can be significant as are the costs associated with discoveries including the cost of a court reporter and transcripts. In addition, lawyers generally spend much more time on Superior Court actions and cost orders can be significantly higher than cost orders in small claims court – especially if the plaintiff’s lawyer brings a wrongful dismissal action in the wrong court.
Once presented with the options, wrongfully dismissed individuals who have not received a fair severance package usually understand and appreciate the benefits of using the small claims court’s simple and expedited process.
“The small claims process generally takes less of the lawyer’s and client’s time, resolves the case quicker, and costs the client less in legal fees,” he says.