How Detailed Must a Lawsuit Document Be?
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. If a Lawsuit Document Lacks Proper Detail, Then a Litigant May Demand More Details and the Small Claims Court May Order the Details.
Understanding When Demanding Particulars Is Appropriate and Permissible Within Small Claims Court Cases
To ensure fairness within a lawsuit, including a Small Claims Court lawsuit, the allegations of the Plaintiff as provided within the Plaintiff's Claim (Form 7A) or the allegations of a Defendant as provided within the Defence (Form 9A) document, also known as the pleadings documents, must be clear and concise so to enable an adequate understanding. This requirement ensures that the parties to the case are able to appreciate the allegations and adequately prepare to argue the case, as based on the pleaded allegations, at Trial. Where the pleading documents are vague or lacking sufficient detail, a Demand For Particulars may be issued.
The precise Rules requiring that the details within a lawsuit pleading document applicable to a Small Claims Court case are prescribed by the Rules of the Small Claims Court, O. Reg. 258/98 as per Rule 7.01(2) for a Plaintiff's Claim (Form 7A) document and per Rule 9.02(1) for a Defence (Form 9A) document, whereas such Rules specifically 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.
While the Rules of the Small Claims Court prescribe the extent of detail that is required within a pleading document, the Rules of the Small Claims Court oddly lack rules about how to remedy a situation where a pleading document lacks the required level of detail. Accordingly, in such a situation, reference to the Rules of Civil Procedure, R.R.O. 1990, Regulation 194, as the Rules that apply to legal cases beyond the jurisdiction of the Small Claims Court becomes necessary and permitted per Rule 1.03(2) which says:
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.
As the Rules of the Small Claims Court lack a rule about what to do if a pleading document within a Small Claims Court lawsuit is insufficiently detailed, reference to the Rules of Civil Procedure may become necessary. Upon review of the Rules of civil Procedure, Rule 25.10 shows that a party to a legal proceeding may demand particulars, meaning issue a request for additional details, from the party whose pleading document was insufficiently detailed. Rule 25.10 specifically 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.
Cases speaking to the opportunity for a litigant in Small Claims Court 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 inadequate particulars concerns 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).
Where a party fails to respond to, or fails to respond sufficiently, to a Demand For Particulars, the party seeking the particulars may initiate a Motion Hearing for the purpose of obtaining an Order that the particulars be provided; however, if the court deems that the additional particulars as requested are unnecessary, the court may dismiss the Motion. The requirement that a Demand For Particulars be issued only where a genuine need arises was addressed within GASP Business Services Inc. v. ARCA Design Inc., 2020 ONSC 5612, wherein it was stated:
 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.