If a Defence is filed, the next step is a mandatory Settlement Conference. One of the parties must submit the request using the required Court form. The date is usually scheduled 2 to 3 months after the filing of the request.
At least 14 days prior to the Settlement Conference, both parties must ensure that all documents, including their List of Proposed Witnesses, have been served on the opposing party(ies) and filed electronically with the Court. This allows for better discussions at the Settlement Conference.
If you instruct Miller Paralegal Services to attempt to resolve the matter even before the Settlement Conference, we can have those discussions with the opposing counsel or party (if self-represented). Otherwise we can simply wait for the Settlement Conference to hear what the Deputy Judge might say about the cases.
The Settlement Conference is a mandatory step intended to:
- attempt to resolve the dispute and to encourage settlement (to save all parties unnecessary costs of Trial). Each party will be asked what their position is on resolving and asked to reasonably consider alternatives
- resolve or narrow down the issues in the action (what can be agreed upon won’t have to be argued at Trial)
- ensure all documents and witness lists have been exchanged (less interruptions in Trial process)
In this time of COVID-19, Settlement Conferences are being conducted on the Zoom platform. Please review Zoom Protocols and Etiquette in Small Claims Court prior to the date and discuss any concerns you have using that platform. All parties (but no witnesses) are to be present and may be called upon during the Settlement Conference.
At the Settlement Conference, the Deputy Judge will first hear from the Plaintiff’s side a summary of the case and the “who, what, when, where, why”. The Deputy Judge will than hear a summary of the Defendant’s side. Some Deputy Judges review the court files in advance of the Conference and have a pretty good idea of each party’s position. The Deputy Judge can then provide their opinion as to the strengths and weaknesses of each side’s case and may suggest possible settlement areas. These are only suggestions based on very quick summaries of facts from each side and without the benefit of hearing from sworn witnesses testifying (during which the Deputy Judge is assessing credibility).
If settlement is reached, the Deputy Judge can make an Order that is agreed to by all parties.
If settlement is not reached and the Claim is for an amount less than $3,500.00, the Deputy Judge make be called upon to decide the matter based on the summaries of the cases. There must be prior consent of the parties because this decision cannot be appealed.
If settlement is not reached, the Deputy Judge will ask for opinions as to how many witnesses would be needed at Trial and therefore how long a Trial would likely take. Because this is meant to be open and frank discussion, this Deputy Judge is unable to later hear the Trial in this matter.