Consumer law: Small claims hearings

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The claim is likely to be heard and decided on the first court date. However, you might first have to attend mediation or attend a directions hearing. These usually take place in front of a judicial registrar of the Court. The judicial registrar, who is specially trained to help disputing parties reach agreement, will encourage you to discuss the claim, review documents and try to resolve some or all of the issues before the final hearing.

If mediation is arranged, you must attend, and you will be expected to participate in the mediation process. This means being ready to argue your case and having all your evidence ready. If you do not attend the mediation, the claim could be dismissed or decided in your absence.

In some cases, the claim is resolved at mediation and there is no need to proceed to a final hearing. If the claim cannot be resolved at mediation, a final hearing date will be set (if it has not already been set) and the claim will be heard in front of a judge.

Hearings of small claims are generally quite informal. In these hearings, the Court is not bound by the rules of evidence and may inform itself of any matter in any manner it thinks fit.

You cannot have a lawyer represent you at the hearing(s) unless the Court permits you to. You must apply for such permission, using the Application in a proceeding, accompanied by an Affidavit explaining why you need a lawyer. Or you can ask the judge in person when you are in court.

If you are not sure what is going to happen on a hearing date, you should check with the Court registry.


If you (the applicant), don’t attend the Court hearing, the Court is likely to dismiss your application.

If the respondent, doesn’t attend the hearing, the Court will want to know whether they received notice of the hearing. You will need to show the Court that the respondent was served with a copy of the application. If you cannot show the Court that the respondent was properly served, the Court may adjourn the hearing to allow more time to properly serve the respondent.

If you can show that the application was properly served on the respondent, the judge will usually consider your evidence and decide the case in the respondent’s absence. You do not automatically get judgment against a respondent who does not attend the hearing. You will still have to prove your claim based on evidence. If the evidence convinces the judge of your claim, you may be awarded some or all of the amount claimed.

In some circumstances, you can apply to the Court to set aside a judgment made in your absence. You will need to file an Application in a proceeding and an accompanying Affidavit explaining why you did not attend the hearing. The time limits for making this kind of application are strict. You should contact the Court for further guidance if you wish to make this kind of application.