Initial Pleadings

In an action, a pleading is a court document that states the position and/or intention of a party to a proceeding, as well as the status of the proceeding. The following is a brief description of the initial pleadings to an action.

Statement of Claim

To initiate the litigation process, the party who has been harmed (the "Plaintiff") prepares a statement of claim. The statement of claim is made up of two parts: one which contains a notice to the party who has harmed the Plaintiff (the "Defendant") of the nature of the proceedings and of the consequences of the Defendant failing to defend the action. The second part contains the claim itself.

Where there is insufficient time to prepare a statement of claim before the applicable time limitation expires, the Plaintiff can issue a notice of action within the applicable limitation period. The Plaintiff then has 30 days from the issuance of the notice of action to file a statement of claim.

This statement of claim must then be served personally on the Defendant, except in rare instances where a court can order that service should take place by a different method.

Statement of Defence and Counterclaim

If the Defendant has been served in Ontario, the Defendant is required to serve the Plaintiff with a statement of defence within 20 days of being served with the claim. Those Defendants served in another province or in the United States have 40 days to serve their statements of defence and 60 days for those served outside Canada and the United States. The statement of defence sets out the reasons that the Defendant says he or she should not have to compensate the Plaintiff. It should be noted that any claims of the Plaintiff that are not expressly denied in the statement of defence are deemed to be admitted unless the Defendant pleads that it has no knowledge about the fact. Further, if the Defendant has a claim against the Plaintiff (a "counterclaim"), it is included in the same document as the statement of defence.

If the Defendant cannot serve the statement of defence within the specified time, the Defendant can give the Plaintiff a notice of intent to defend. This notice gives the Defendant 10 extra days to deliver a statement of defence.

If the Defendant does not file a statement of defence within the requisite time frame, the Plaintiff can ask the court to note the Defendant in default and then obtain a default judgment against the Defendant.

Reply and Defence to Counterclaim

Once the Plaintiff receives the statement of defence, the Plaintiff has the option to file a reply to the allegations made in the statement of defence. If the Defendant included a counterclaim, the Plaintiff must serve the Defendant with a defence to the counterclaim within 20 days after service of the statement of defence. Otherwise the Defendant can note the Plaintiff in default and then obtain default judgment against the Plaintiff for the damages described in the counterclaim.