What Happens If a Lawsuit Is Difficult to Understand?
The Rules of the Small Claims Court Require That Lawsuit Documents Be Clear and Concise With Enough Details to Ensure An Understanding of the Allegations. Where a Lawsuit Document Lacks Enough Detail a Litigant May Demand More Details and the Small Claims Court May Issue An Order to Provide the Additional Details.
Understanding When Demanding Particulars Is Appropriate and Permissible Within Small Claims Court Cases
To help ensure fairness and a just outcome to a lawsuit, including a lawsuit within the Small Claims Court, the allegations within the Plaintiff's Claim (Form 7A) document as stated by the Plaintiff as well as the allegations within the Defence (Form 9A) document as stated by the Defendant, must be capable of a reasonable understanding. The requirement of understandable documents, known as pleadings, helps enable that the parties to the litigation can appreciate what the case is about and can respond appropriately. If pleading documents are insufficient detailed, a Demand For Particulars may be served as a request for more details.
The specific rules for the details required within pleading documents issued within a Small Claims Court case are provided within the Rules of the Small Claims Court, O. Reg. 258/98 as per Rule 7.01(2) for a Plaintiff's Claim (Form 7A) and per Rule 9.02(1) for a Defence (Form 9A) and which respectively state:
7.01 (2) The following requirements apply to the claim:
1. It shall contain the following information, in concise and non-technical language:
i. The full names of the parties to the proceeding and, if relevant, the capacity in which they sue or are sued.
ii. The nature of the claim, with reasonable certainty and detail, including the date, place and nature of the occurrences on which the claim is based.
iii. The amount of the claim and the relief requested.
iv. If the plaintiff is self-represented, the plaintiff’s address, telephone number and email address (if any).
iv.i If the plaintiff is represented by a representative, the representative’s name, address, telephone number, email address (if any) and Law Society of Ontario registration number (if any).
v. The address where the plaintiff believes the defendant may be served.
2. If the plaintiff’s claim is based in whole or in part on a document, a copy of the document shall be attached to each copy of the claim, unless it is unavailable, in which case the claim shall state the reason why the document is not attached.
9.02 (1) The following requirements apply to the defence:
1. It shall contain the following information:
i. The reasons why the defendant disputes the plaintiff’s claim, expressed in concise non-technical language with a reasonable amount of detail.
ii. If the defendant is self-represented, the defendant’s name, address, telephone number and email address (if any).
iii. If the defendant is represented by a representative, the representative’s name, address, telephone number, and email address (if any) and Law Society of Ontario registration number (if any).
2. If the defence is based in whole or in part on a document, a copy of the document shall be attached to each copy of the defence, unless it is unavailable, in which case the defence shall state the reason why the document is not attached.
Interestingly, while the Rules of the Small Claims Court contain rules that prescribe the extent of details required within pleading documents, the Rules of the Small Claims Court lack rules that address what should happen if a pleading document fails to provide the extent of details as required. Accordingly, in such a circumstance, reference to the Rules of Civil Procedure, R.R.O. 1990, Regulation 194, being the rules applicable to the higher court as beyond Small Claims Court, is required as prescribed by Rule 1.03(2) which states:
Matters Not Covered in Rules
1.03 (2) If these rules do not cover a matter adequately, the court may give directions and make any order that is just, and the practice shall be decided by analogy to these rules, by reference to the Courts of Justice Act and the Act governing the action and, if the court considers it appropriate, by reference to the Rules of Civil Procedure.
Accordingly, whereas the Rules of the Small Claims Court are without a rule specific to what to do in the event that a pleading by a party within a Small Claims Court lawsuit fails to provide adequate detail, reference to the Rules of Civil Procedure provide may occur. Upon refering to the Rules of civil Procedure, Rule 25.10 will show that a party may demand particulars, meaning request additional details, from the party whose pleading failed to provide sufficient information. Specifically Rule 25.10 states:
25.10 Where a party demands particulars of an allegation in the pleading of an opposite party, and the opposite party fails to supply them within seven days, the court may order particulars to be delivered within a specified time.
Furthermore, various cases addressing the right of a litigant to demand adequate particulars include Bechaalani v. Hostar Realty Ltd., 2004 CanLII 24997 wherein the Divisional Court, while hearing argument that a pleading within a Small Claims Court case failed to provide adequate particulars, stated at paragraph 24 that, "... a Demand for Particulars could have been served ...". Other Small Claims Court cases involving particulars concerns due to inadequate pleading documents include Cecatina General Contractors Ltd. v. Arbour,  O.J. No. 331, Nelson v Bray, 2007 CanLII 86745, and Hallmark Insurance Brokers Ltd. v. Baron, SC-13-00099311 (unreported).
Lastly, it is notable that where a party fails to respond, or fails to respond adequately, to a Demand For Particulars, the party demanding the particulars may bring a Motion Hearing seeking an Order that the particulars be provided; however, the court may dismiss the Motion Hearing where the court deems that the particulars requested are unnecessary. The genuine requirement of particulars was addressed within the case of GASP Business Services Inc. v. ARCA Design Inc., 2020 ONSC 5612 wherein it was said:
 Each pleading must to contain a concise statement of the materials facts on which the party relies for its claim or defence, but not the evidence by which those facts will be proven (Rule 25.06(1)). A party is required to plead any matter on which the party intends to rely to defeat the claim of the opposite party and which if not specifically pleaded, might take the opposite party by surprise or raise an issue that has not been raised in the opposite party’s pleading (Rule 25.07(4)). Lastly, particulars are only ordered when they are necessary to enable a party to plead (Obonsawin v. Canada 2001 CarswellOnt 306 at paragraph 33, considering Rule 25.10).
The Rules of the Small Claims Court require that pleading documents, being the primary documents containing allegations, or denials, within a lawsuit, are drafted in a clear and concise manner with a reasonable degree of particularity; however, the Rules of Small Claims Court lack a rule for what happens if pleading documents fail to meet this requirement. Accordingly, in such circumstances, reference to the Rules of Civil Procedure is required.