Small Claims Confusion
The Office of the Ombudsman was contacted by an individual who was the object of small claims court application. The complainant alleged that the notice received was handwritten and illegible. The complainant stated because of this, they did not know why they were being taken to court and could not file a related defence. According to the complainant they spoke with multiple workers at the Department of Justice and the Prothonotary who also indicated they could not read the material but that the complainant would need to file a defence, or the court would issue a default judgement.
When contacted by an Ombudsman Representative, a Supervisor at the Prothonotary acknowledged a photocopy of the Notice was faint; and while one or two words could not be read, most of the Notice was legible and therefore staff deemed it could be processed. The Supervisor added that it was the responsibility of the adjudicator to determine whether the Notice was legible and served properly. The Supervisor confirmed that the complainant was encouraged to file a defence anyway, so a default judgement would not be issued against them.
The Ombudsman Representative inquired whether the Notice could be re-typed for the complainant. The Supervisor stated that staff could not type out the Notice, as some words were not legible, and it could create the possibility Prothonotary staff might misinterpret the context of the document the Ombudsman Representative then spoke with the Director of Court Administration who proposed a resolution that court staff would re-type what they could read in the document, and that the Claimant could come in to their office to assist in clarifying the words staff could not understand.
The Director confirmed that the Claimant would be double checking the typed material to ensure its accuracy and that it is interpreted based on the Claimant's views rather than the assumptions of court administration. The Claimant agreed to the proposed resolution. The Director explained that typically they do not assist a Claimant in re-typing a Notice, however the Claimant in this instance did not know how to use a computer and did not have a person to assist them in typing up their statement or Notice. The complainant was satisfied, and their concerns were resolved.