Statement Of Defence: What You Need To Know
In Ontario, people can file and serve statements of claim against defendants to start civil lawsuits. If you receive a statement of claim in the mail, or from someone handing you a statement of claim, you are on notice that a legal claim has commenced against you.
An individual or other entity named as a defendant in a statement of claim must reply to the allegations against them through a statement of defence. In Ontario, the statement of defence must be drafted, served, and filed in accordance with the Ontario Rules of Civil Procedure (“Rules”).
What should you include in a statement of defence? When are the deadlines for delivering and filing a statement of defence? if you do not deliver and file a statement of defence, how can hiring a lawyer help in defending a lawsuit?
This article answers these questions and explains why you should hire a litigation lawyer to help.
What is a Statement of Defence?
In Ontario, a statement of defence must be filed in response to a statement of claim. In short, the statement of defence is how you defend against liability for a legal claim. It should typically include relevant details and deny the allegations made against you in the statement of claim.
Typically, a statement of defence should include the following:
- A concise statement of what you agree with, what you deny, and what you have no knowledge of from the statement of claim;
- Your version of the facts and other important details relating to the allegations against you in the claim; and
- Your legal positions and formal defences you intend to rely on against the plaintiff(s)’ claims against you.
A statement of defence should not include the following:
- Detailed legal arguments with supporting case law;
- Evidence that you want to submit in support of your statement of defence or the case as a whole; and
- Irrelevant information to what is being claimed against you, including but not limited to insults, personal opinions, your emotional reaction to the statement of claim, and unrelated allegations against the plaintiff(s).
If you do not use the appropriate formatting, language, and forms or your defence otherwise does not comply with the Rules, it may be struck or dismissed entirely. This can have serious legal and financial consequences.
What is the Deadline to File a Statement of Defence?
In Ontario, a defendant must deliver their statement of defence within 20 days of being served with a statement of claim. A defendant can serve a notice of intention to defend on the plaintiff(s) for an additional 10 days to deliver their statement of defence. Further extensions can be granted with written consent from the plaintiff(s).
The Courts are strict with regard to compliance with the timelines outlined in the Rules. It is always best practice to provide the plaintiff(s) written notice that you intend to file the defence. You should also confirm the plaintiff(s)’ consent to extend the deadline to deliver your statement of defence in writing.
Statements of defence must be delivered to the plaintiff(s) and must be filed alongside proof of delivery with the Court on the timelines outlined above. If a statement of defence is not filed on time, you would incur the serious consequences of failing to file a defence to a claim.
The Rules may differ regarding delivery of a statement of defence depending on the circumstances of a specific lawsuit. Defendants to a claim should always consult with a litigation lawyer and the Rules to confirm the appropriate procedure and due dates for delivery of legal documents.
What Happens If You Fail To Deliver a Statement of Defence?
In Ontario, plaintiffs can note a defendant who fails to deliver a defence in default and potentially seek a default judgment against them. If you are noted in default, you are deemed to have admitted the allegations made against you in the statement of claim. The plaintiff(s) can seek orders for remedies and relief against you without further notice or your participation in the legal process by noting you in default.
Being noted in default can have severe legal and financial consequences. Luckily, you can bring a motion to set aside a noting in default or default judgment. However, you will have to explain to the Court why you did not file your defence and what steps you took to confirm you intended to defend against the allegations in the statement of claim.
Should I Hire A Litigation Lawyer?
It is clear there are many ways responding to a statement of claim can go wrong. Drafting the defence properly, delivering and filing the defence on time, and taking necessary steps to comply with the Rules can become stressful, time-consuming, and complex.
That is the benefit of hiring a litigation lawyer to help you defend against a statement of claim. They can help you by:
- Advising you about your available legal defences and practical litigation strategies;
- Drafting your statement of defence and ensuring it is filed appropriately;
- Advocating on your behalf throughout the litigation process and in negotiations to resolve your lawsuit out of court; and
- Minimizing your legal risks while maximizing your chances of achieving your desired result in the lawsuit.
It is always best to consult with a litigation lawyer as soon as you receive service of a statement of claim. Waiting too long can make it difficult for a lawyer to prepare and deliver your statement of defence. However, a litigation lawyer can also help you set aside a default judgment against you if you never filed a statement of defence when you should have.
If you are served with a statement of claim, you must prepare and file a statement of defence in accordance with the Rules. Failing to include what you should in your statement of defence or filing it too late can have significant legal and financial consequences on you. A litigation lawyer can help you ensure you minimize your legal risks and maximize the chances of defending against the allegations in a statement of claim.
Contact Achkar Law
If you are looking for assistance with defending against a lawsuit or setting aside default judgment against you, our skilled, knowledgeable, and experienced lawyers at Achkar Law can advocate on your behalf.