The Court Order and The Hearing Date
So, you’ve been assigned a hearing date in court. What can you do to improve your chances? The more preparation you put in, the better your chances at trial.
When the court notifies you of your court trial date, the court should inform you of what you need to do with documents and evidence ahead of time. Examine the court order in great detail. Most of the time, the court will issue the following orders:
“Each party shall, at least 14 days before the date fixed for the final hearing, file and serve on every other party copies of all documents (including any expert’s report) on which he/she intends to rely at the hearing”
This means you must send all documents you intend to use in court to the court as well as the other party. Spend some time organizing the documents and presenting them correctly, because they will most likely be placed on the Judge’s court file in the same condition in which you sent them.
Prepare Your Bundle And Keep Your Papers In Order
If you send the papers in a logical order, the Judge will find it much easier to navigate them. If you hand over a random stack of papers to a Judge, he or she may not be inclined to figure out what’s inside and may overlook a document you believe is critical to your case. Before the hearing begins, the Judge may only have a short period of time to read the case and review the papers. Organize the information and documents in such a way that he is more likely to notice them. Sort the documents, for example, into the following categories:
section 1 correspondence such as letters and emails (in chronological order)
section 2 signed agreement or contract
section 3 pictures and photographs, etc
The Witness Statement
Instead of simply allowing oral evidence at the court trial, the Judge may require you to file and serve a witness statement ahead of time.
- All of the issues that the court will have to consider on the day of the hearing must be addressed in the witness statements. To ensure that you cover all of the bases, it’s best to study the claim form and defence while writing the statements. Judges in small claims court generally disregard technical restrictions on witness testimony, such as hearsay. You are not expected to be familiar with the legal rules governing evidence.
- Documents should be referred to within the statement. The Judge is more likely to look first at documents included in a witness statement, so if you believe a document is relevant, specifically mention it.
- The witness statement should be written entirely in the witness’s own words.
- The statement must be accurate and truthful. If the contents of a statement are false, you could be held in contempt of court, which is a criminal offence.
The Statement of Truth
A witness statement should always be signed and dated by the person who is making it, and should include the following paragraph:
“I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true.”
This is known as a statement of truth, which you will have already signed when filling out the claim form or filing your defence.