Author Topic: Any small claims court experts in the house?  (Read 926 times)

k-vette

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Any small claims court experts in the house?
« on: December 12, 2018, 03:19:48 PM »
I filed a small claims case due to a dispute the other party wouldn't resolve peaceably.  I'm trying to find someone well versed with the ins and outs.  I've never been to court for any reason, so this is a first!  I did have an attorney beforehand to attempt a resolution and he recommended this as the best next step.

Here's my main question...  the defendant asked for a postponement...  sort of.  He did send a letter 10 days (exactly) before the court date, but the copy I received was regular mail and would have no proof of service.  (Everything says you should do that, but I haven't found anything saying it's required.)  Possible chink in the armor if so.  Basically the letter says he won't be there, he didn't really ask!  Seems risky if you ask me.  Is there any way I can convince the judge to proceed the day of?  I'd love to resolve things and a default judgement from his non-appearance would be a nice win.  Otherwise we waste everyone's time while he continues his vacation.

ebella

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Re: Any small claims court experts in the house?
« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2018, 03:33:12 PM »
Work for a judge and have practiced in small claims before,
You can show up and ask to proceed to a default judgement for their failure to show but judge is unlikely to do that if the defendant gave notice that he would not be able to show up that day.  It really depends on your court's local rules.  Generally, where parties are representing themselves and it's a civil dispute, judges are pretty lenient about postponements. 

k-vette

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Re: Any small claims court experts in the house?
« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2018, 03:38:41 PM »
Thanks, I'll plan on that, but would love to have this over...

If you think it makes any difference, the letter actually went on and on about how the name was incorrect (I can easily prove otherwise and show the letters inconsistencies).  He asked the judge to dismiss it based on that.  Then at the bottom said basically, and btw I'll be out of the country until the day after anyway.  Do you think the judge would think any differently if I explain the issues with his letter?  It truly is an example of how the case would go if he was present.

ebella

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Re: Any small claims court experts in the house?
« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2018, 03:42:45 PM »
Well it seems like he filed a motion to dismiss based on incorrect service or an improper party?   If he's correct, the judge can dismiss it for lack of jurisdiction and you'll lose the filing fee you paid.  So I'd be sure that you served him correctly and that you served the right party.  I think you should still show up and just explain but maybe also get a lawyer or read the court's procedural rules governing service to be sure you're right.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Any small claims court experts in the house?
« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2018, 04:09:42 PM »
Lawyer here.  Obviously not familiar with your jurisdiction but I'm going to guess the judge will continue the hearing. 

Further, and not being rude, but your post demonstrates your lack of knowledge regarding the Civil Rules, which is what governs these proceedings. Also note that even though you are a non-lawyer, you will still be bound by these Civil Rules, the Rules of Evidence, etc.

I can't tell you how many times I've sat in small claims court and watched parties with good cases lose because they don't know what they're doing.

Actually, I have a client right now who retained me to clean up the mess he made in small claims.  He paid me $1,500 for the privilege.  But to try his case off the bat, I would have charged probably $500 or $750 -- it was easy and straightforward and would have required minimal prep time.  But he thought he could do it himself, screwed it up, and now he needed to pay me both to clean it up and hopefully re-try it again.

So maybe ask that lawyer friend if he will take $500 to help you out with the case.  It will probably be of benefit, and you may even be entitled to attorneys' fees.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Any small claims court experts in the house?
« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2018, 04:10:51 PM »
One more thing -- if this is not worth paying a lawyer $500 for, it's probably not worth even pursuing, period.

Even if you win, the judgment will just be a piece of paper.  Then you'll need to collect it.  That's quite frequently a very difficult process that costs a lot of time, energy, and money.

k-vette

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Re: Any small claims court experts in the house?
« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2018, 04:20:07 PM »
To be clear, I did pay an attorney (not a friend), and more than $500 before this point.  And no, the case isn't worth much.  I just want a clear resolution now so he doesn't try and come after me for made up stuff later.  I understand collecting is a whole different animal.

The name I used on my paperwork was the exact name his attorney used on communications with me.  My attorney is not concerned about that aspect.

I'm just hoping there's something I can do to prevent a continuance and be done.  If not, I'll take the day in court and my attorney believes I have a solid case.

charis

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Re: Any small claims court experts in the house?
« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2018, 07:55:24 PM »
I filed in small claims years ago for a security deposit.  You can oppose the adjournment request but don't expect the judge to deny it. There's probably a packet online that explains exactly how to file and present your case in small claims. My experience was pretty informal - the judge asking each party to explain their side of the story and handing over any exhibits/evidence. But  your experience might be different. Good luck.