After you issue and serve a Plaintiff’s Claim on a defendant, the defendant has 20 days from the date of service in which to serve and file a defence. If the defendant does not file a defence, then a plaintiff can note that defendant in default and proceed to obtain judgment. If the claim is for a liquidated debt, you may be able to obtain a ‘default judgment’ by simply filing the appropriate paperwork with the court office. In that case, the court clerk can enter a default judgment. The amount of costs that you will receive will be limited by obtaining a judgment in this manner.
If your claim is for a non-liquidated debt, then the clerk of the court cannot sign judgment - only a judge can. In that case you will have to, (and even in the case of a liquidated debt, you may want to), present the matter to a judge to sign judgment. In that case, you would ask the court to schedule an ‘Assessment Hearing’. The cost for an Assessment Hearing is $100.00 and that cost is recoverable as part of the judgment.
At the Assessment Hearing, you will have to prove the amount of your claim to a judge. This can be done on one of two ways - either by affidavit evidence or by giving oral testimony.
If your matter is conducive to this, an Affidavit with Exhibits can be provided to the court to be relied upon in order to prove your damages and obtain a judgment. This is a way to obtain judgment without you having to get into the witness box to give oral testimony as to the amount of your damages. Proper care must be taken to prepare the affidavit so that it will contain all of the elements and details required in order to obtain a judgment.
If your matter is not conducive to you proving your damages by way of affidavit evidence, then giving oral evidence at an Assessment Hearing will be the better way to go.
Each matter has to be looked at carefully to evaluate which way is more advantageous for you as a plaintiff – affidavit or oral evidence. An experienced legal professional will be able to guide you in this determination.
In either case, affidavit or oral evidence, the award of costs will be higher by doing an Assessment Hearing than by having the clerk of the court sign a default judgment as mentioned in the first paragraph of this article. Of course you have to ask for those costs but they are available if they are properly requested.
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