Law Talk

ADR and Small Claims Court

August 2008

If you are suing someone or being sued for an amount under $25,000, the Small Claims Court will insist that the plaintiff and defendant get together with a Deputy Judge for a Mandatory Settlement Conference. The purpose of a settlement conference is to:

  • resolve or narrow down the issues in the action;
  • help to resolve the dispute faster;
  • encourage settlement;
  • assist the parties with effective trial preparation; and
  • provide full disclosure between the parties of the relevant facts and evidence.

A settlement conference is basically a court-mandated mediation in front of a Deputy Judge. The proceedings are confidential, and the judge will not impose a settlement unless the value is under $500 and both parties agree.

Even if the whole case cannot be resolved, the settlement conference is a good opportunity to work out an agreement on at least some of the issues, so that the trial can be less expensive, easier and quicker. If there is going to be a trial, the settlement conference is also an opportunity to help you get prepared for the trial. The judge may make recommendations about your case. The judge who conducts your settlement conference will not preside at the trial.

After the settlement conference, the clerk will provide the parties with a copy of the endorsement record, either in person or by mail. The endorsement record contains any orders that the judge made at the settlement conference.

What will happen at the settlement conference?

The settlement conference will usually be held in an office or meeting room. This is a less formal procedure than a trial and all parties will sit at a table with the judge. The settlement conference is a private meeting. Members of the public are not allowed.

Judges may conduct settlement conferences in different ways, but usually the judge will say a few words and then ask each party to give a brief summary of his or her case. You do not need to write this out in full but you should have a list of the points you wish to make. If you made a worksheet, use that.

If all parties agree on a final settlement, the judge may make an order which disposes of the case and you will not need to go to trial. If a settlement is not reached, the settlement conference is an opportunity to try to resolve some issues before the trial and to assist in preparing for the trial.

This column provides legal information only and is produced by the students of Community Legal Services and Pro Bono Students Canada (UWO). The information in this article is accurate as of the date of publication. If you need legal advice please contact a lawyer, community legal clinic or the Lawyer Referral Service at 1-900-565-4LRS.

Last edited: Thursday, September 5, 2013 @ 9:15 AM