So, you want to sue someone?
Maybe that’s because you read our previous post; “Do I Have a Claim?”
Alright… what do you do from here? It takes a lot of work to sue someone, and you’re going to need to decide if you want to pursue the claim all the way through.
Review your documents, and review them again.
If you have specific documents (like a contract) that apply to your claim, you have to review them. This is a very important first step. If you are, for example, subject to a collective bargaining agreement, you may not be able to sue at all and must use the agreed-to dispute resolution mechanism instead. This may mean that you have to first try to settle your dispute using some form of negotiation or mediation (non-binding if no settlement agreement reached) or have to resolve your dispute using arbitration (a separate issue, for a separate day). Arbitrations are often final and binding on the parties. This means that, absent any rights of review or appeal that you may have – because that’s what the arbitration clause you agreed to says you have the right to do – you’re going to have to live with the outcome. At this point, suing just isn’t an option.
Hire a lawyer! We’re not kidding. If you’re not forced to arbitrate, you can resolve your dispute by starting a lawsuit to recover compensation for something that has happened to you – the word damages is the legal term used to describe what you’re actually suing for to recover. The formal commencement of your lawsuit is done by issuing a Statement of Claim, if you are suing for more than $35,000, or by issuing a Plaintiff’s Claim, if your claim is for $35,000 or less. A claim for $35,000 or less is litigated in the Small Claims Court. Suing for amounts higher than that are litigated in the Superior Court of Justice. Parties that start claims are called Plaintiffs and parties that are defending claims brought against them are called (or referred to) as Defendants. Also, it’s important to remember that the (deputy) judge that ultimately decides your case is to be referred to as Your Honour – don’t call her she!
Personally serve your issued Statement of Claim or Plaintiff’s Claim on all defendant(s). If you cannot do it yourself, hire someone (often called a process server) to do it for you. That person, or you, if you do this yourself, will have to swear an Affidavit of Service after to attest to the fact that personal service was carried out. File that Affidavit of Service with the applicable court. You’re now well on your way to suing someone, and can expect a court date soon after.
- Generally speaking, claims cannot (most of the time) be filed more than 2 years after the claim is discovered. It’s important to get this right. If you are unsure, contact a lawyer! We always recommend that you seek legal advice if you are thinking of suing someone.