Inventory of Reforms
Nova Scotia Small Claims Court
Overview of the Nova Scotia Small Claims Court.
Small Claims Court
1980: Small Claims Court established
1986: Monetary jurisdiction of the Court increased to $3,000
1992: Monetary jurisdiction of the Court increased to $5,000
1999: Monetary jurisdiction of the Court increased to $10,000
2004: Monetary jurisdiction of the Court increased to $15,000
2005: Evaluation of the Small Claims Court initiated
2006: Monetary jurisdiction of the Court increased to $25,000
March 2009: Evaluation Report released
Marc W. Patry, Veronica Stinson & Steven M. Smith, Evaluation of the Nova Scotia Small Claims Court: Final report to the Nova Scotia Law Reform Commission (Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia, 2009). [Evaluation Report]
Nova Scotia Small Claims CourtExternal Link (website) (The Courts of Nova Scotia, 2009).
The Nova Scotia Small Claims Court was established in 1980 by the Small Claims Court Act.
The original idea of the court was to aid self-represented litigants. “The objective was and is to create a court that would satisfy the following criteria: (1) accessibility; (2) low costs; (3) informality; (4) simplicity; (5) quick and efficient disposal of cases; and (6) fairness.”
Evaluation Report at 21
Description of Reforms:
There are 11 individual Small Claims Courts serving Nova Scotia. A number of courts serve two counties. Adjudicators, who are appointed, must be members in good standing of the Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society. In almost all cases, hearings are held on weekday evenings, with special allowances for daytime hearings upon request… Adjudicators have a good deal of latitude in how they run the proceedings. Thus, there is a tendency toward relaxed procedural and evidentiary rules.
Evaluation Report at 23, 26
The Nova Scotia Small Claims Court has never required mediation. There was at some point in time a Small Claims Mediation Pilot Project, available on a voluntary basis, which was run by an organization called ADR Atlantic, but the project is now defunct.
The original cap on claims in the Nova Scotia Small Claims Court was set at $2,000, then it was increased to $3,000 in 1986, to $5,000 in 1992, to $10,000 in 1999, to $15,000 effective April 1, 2004, and most recently to $25,000 as of April 1, 2006…
There are no provisions for pretrial discovery or disclosure of documents.
Evaluation Report at 21, 25
Criteria and Methods of Evaluation:
Law Reform Commission of Nova Scotia conducted an evaluation of the Nova Scotia Small Claims Court to determine its effectiveness “at meeting its basic objective of providing quick, informal, and affordable access to justice” and “to illuminate any emergent areas of concern for possible legislative reform” (Evaluation Report at 27).
The system is working quite well at meeting its legislative objective of providing rapid, informal, inexpensive access to justice. The data suggest a number of areas for future consideration and possible reform. There does seem to be one clear weakness in the current operation of the Nova Scotia Small Claims Court: enforcement of judgments. We recommend that lawmakers consider 1) careful evaluation and policy change toward improving enforcement of Nova Scotia Small Claims judgments, 2) careful evaluation and revision of the Nova Scotia Small Claims Court forms, 3) recording some of the more complex hearings, and 4) developing and implementing a comprehensive data collection plan regarding the Nova Scotia Small Claims Court.
Future research should evaluate the impact of recent legislative changes, particularly the shift to a $25,000 ceiling on allowable claims and the increase in allowable claims for general damages from $100 to $2,500. The Nova Scotia Supreme Court is in a state of transition and these changes must be carefully monitored. There is a distinct risk that these changes will strain the system to the point that rapid access to justice is no longer feasible. The Nova Scotia Small Claims Court now has one of the highest caps on small claims in all of North America. We urge caution, and careful empirical evaluation of the system as the full impact of these changes unfolds.
Evaluation Report at 102-103
This summary was last reviewed in Oct 07, 2013