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Small Claims Court - Experiences?
Old 11-30-2012, 10:42 AM   #1
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Small Claims Court - Experiences?

Am looking for advice on the use of small claims court. In particular, actual experiences, and results.
Some of the questions:

-Cost to file? Court costs, sheriff services etc.

-Suit Limits (know this will differ, but need a ballpark number)?

-How long before case is heard

-Who has to go to court (witnesses- lawyer, etc.)

-Can sue corporations in small claims? Local, National?

-Can appeal judgements?

-If one loses the case, are there additional liabilities? Defendant's court or lawyer fees?

... and other things to consider, before initiating a Claim?
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Old 11-30-2012, 10:51 AM   #2
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I'm not an attorney, and I don't even play one on TV, so consider what follows merely an approximation, and note that specifics vary by state. Filing fees and service are under $100, limits are a few thousand dollars, case is scheduled for months later, anyone who will testify needs to be present, corporations can be sued if they do business in the state, appeals are usually possible, defendant pays own costs unless they countersue and win.
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Old 11-30-2012, 10:55 AM   #3
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I sued in small claims court once. I won. It did me no good as there is no method to extract the money from someone that is going bankrupt.

So unless you are sure you can get the money, don't waste your time.
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Old 11-30-2012, 11:04 AM   #4
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My batting average is .667 - won twice, lost once. The last time was over twenty years ago so my knowledge of the experience may no longer be valid.
For what it's worth - the process is quite easy with minimal out of pocket filing fees to get it started. There is a LOT of pressure to meet in advance and come to a compromise.
If you don't compromise, you'll have a somewhat long wait before you go before the judge. I was lucky in that I got paid the two times I won; but as Lazarus noted many people win but never see a check as the other side simply doesn't pay up.
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:01 PM   #5
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My batting average is .667 - won twice, lost once. The last time was over twenty years ago so my knowledge of the experience may no longer be valid.
For what it's worth - the process is quite easy with minimal out of pocket filing fees to get it started. There is a LOT of pressure to meet in advance and come to a compromise.
If you don't compromise, you'll have a somewhat long wait before you go before the judge. I was lucky in that I got paid the two times I won; but as Lazarus noted many people win but never see a check as the other side simply doesn't pay up.

This is based on very old info.... but I bet it is still there...

IF the person does not pay and does not file for BK, you can go to the court and they will issue an order for the sheriff to go out and take something to sell to get the money... My dad ran a small business and took a lot of people to small claims... won every one... had the sheriff go out in about half the cases... got money in all of them....
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:14 PM   #6
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I woyld try Judge Judy.

DH sued someone in small claims two counties over in the early 70s who had bounced a check on $200 freelance job while DH was back in school after the army. Took a lot of time but DH won. Never collected as guy went underground and was married to someone in sheriff's extended family. Three decades later the guy opened an office near mine but we resisted the temptation to confront the weasel for our own pleasure.

Hmmm, I could yelp him with one heck of a bad review. Nah, life is too short to focus on revenge.
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Old 11-30-2012, 12:54 PM   #7
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As others have said, my one experience with it a few years ago amounted to throwing good money after bad.

When the miscreant who took my advance payment and failed to deliver the goods didn't bother to appear, he got the judgment entered against him, but he simply ignored it.

I even got the state attorney general's office to go after him (it was a clear-cut case of fraud), but they couldn't get anything out of him either.

So my take on this is that it's probably a waste of your time and money.
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Old 11-30-2012, 01:10 PM   #8
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I had an overall good experience and believe justice was done despite some long odds.
I was 16 years old and had a traffic accident--I was at an intersection turning left across opposing traffic when the driver waiting at the stop sign on my left decided he could go. I had to swerve up onto a curb to avoid hitting him or another car. I didn't hit him or any other cars, but did about $2k worth of damage to my suspension. He was all full of apologies at the time, admitted he hadn't seen me, etc. By the time he got home he'd changed his mind and decided it was my fault, that he'd only stopped to see if anyone was hurt.
He was a doctor in his mid forties, I was a high school punk in a red sports car with no witnesses to what had happened. We were both insured by the same company, so the only thing at issue was my insurance deductible (and the underlying responsibility for the accident). I went to small claims court, explained what had happened with diagrams and photos. He gave his story (a pack-o-lies about my excessive speed, etc). The judge believed me and ordered the guy to pay the money. I also used the judgement to get the accident removed from my record with the insurance company.

That was about 35 years ago in California. I don't recall the specifics about fees, etc. but I believe the fees were only a little less than my approx $200 insurance deductible. I know I had to wait a long time for the court date. My objective was to get the accident off my record and to make this liar pay some money and share some of the inconvenience I had experienced due to his negligence.
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Old 11-30-2012, 03:02 PM   #9
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I'm also curious about taking a large company to small claims court. I understand what people are saying here, you sue an average (probably below-average) Joe-Blow, you will never get any money from him.

But what about a company? Can they evade this so easily? I've got a situation that I am considering small claims court, maybe half for the experience. Definitely a "first world problem", but I recently "upgraded" the firmware in my GPS, cause when I plugged it into the computer it said I should. Well, the 'update' wasn't just bug-fixes/stability/performance as I expected, but they made major changes to the UI. It no longer works the way I want or expect (specifically, you cannot have compass heading and speed limit on the screen at the same time). There are lots of similar complaints on their forum.

In essence, I feel like they came into my house an broke my perfectly good GPS, no different than a theif breaking in. I think they owe my the cost and the time I spent troubleshooting all this. Their only recc was I could completely reset it to the original FW, but then I lose all my 'favorites', and probably any bug-fixes/stability/performance improvements in the earlier updates they issued.

Probably not worth my time, just curious. But it does really tick me off that a company can essentially break my working product like that. Does not seem right - at least they should have warned about major changes, and offered steps to be able to go back to an earlier version.

-ERD50
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Old 11-30-2012, 03:11 PM   #10
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I'm also curious about taking a large company to small claims court. I understand what people are saying here, you sue an average (probably below-average) Joe-Blow, you will never get any money from him.

But what about a company? Can they evade this so easily? I've got a situation that I am considering small claims court, maybe half for the experience. Definitely a "first world problem", but I recently "upgraded" the firmware in my GPS, cause when I plugged it into the computer it said I should. Well, the 'update' wasn't just bug-fixes/stability/performance as I expected, but they made major changes to the UI. It no longer works the way I want or expect (specifically, you cannot have compass heading and speed limit on the screen at the same time). There are lots of similar complaints on their forum.

In essence, I feel like they came into my house an broke my perfectly good GPS, no different than a theif breaking in. I think they owe my the cost and the time I spent troubleshooting all this. Their only recc was I could completely reset it to the original FW, but then I lose all my 'favorites', and probably any bug-fixes/stability/performance improvements in the earlier updates they issued.

Probably not worth my time, just curious. But it does really tick me off that a company can essentially break my working product like that. Does not seem right - at least they should have warned about major changes, and offered steps to be able to go back to an earlier version.

-ERD50

I doubt if you would win on this... as far as the court is concerned you got what you paid for... just do not like it....

Can you go back to your old map
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Old 11-30-2012, 03:31 PM   #11
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As for you question of suing a large corp... I was taught this in college, so I would tend to think it was true... but no reference to know for sure...


There was a young man who bought something that was defective... the company did not do anything about the warranty... he took them to small claims court... they ignored it... he won... they ignored it... he went back to the judge... they ignored HIM... so, the judge put a lien on the corporate headquarters of the parent company that happened to be in the same city.... the kid then foreclosed on the headquarters...


By then, the large firm decided it was in their interest to fix the problem... but the kid walked away with more than he was awarded in the first place...
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Old 11-30-2012, 03:37 PM   #12
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I doubt if you would win on this... as far as the court is concerned you got what you paid for... just do not like it....

Can you go back to your old map
Your conclusion might be right, but I don't agree with your logic. I got what I paid for originally, and then their update 'broke it'. Then I had to 'fix' it - lots of internet searching, lots of futzing, and it takes ~ 2 HOURS for each back up, another 2 hours to re-load, and re-install the FW, and then some time to test it. And I've lost interim updates, which were probably of some value in stability/performance. They have no procedure for getting interim updates to me.

I actually did manage to get my 'favorites' (about 35 contacts/addresses) re-installed - no thanks to them (TomTom, BTW). I realized I had done a backup on another computer, and was able to find my 'favorites' there (the recent upgrade/backup process overwrote them on my device AND my backup!). Their software doesn't allow you to selectively recover 'favorites', just the whole 'blob'. But much more googling, and I found the file it is stored in, and how to do a plain old file copy to the device, by-passing their SW entirely.

So this was hours and hours of my time to get it back the way it was. If someone broke something of yours, and then you spent many hours researching and fixing it, would you say 'no problem - it works now, no harm done'?

And this wasn't just a 'glitch' - this was an intentional change by the company, that they didn't warn anyone about. There is an angry bunch of users on their forums. Maybe a flurry of people winning in small claims court might get them thinking. And it might get me some remuneration?

-ERD50
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Old 11-30-2012, 03:59 PM   #13
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I hauled the township bureacrocy into small claims court.

The township issued me a zoning violation, based on someone complaining about work in my front yard. The township engineer did 40 mph drive by inspection and asserted some facts, which really required physical measurements.

A zoning appeal hearing was held, which cost me $300. The board voted 2 to 1 in favor of No Violation, one board member did not belive her own measurements.

Then I appeared in front of the Town board at a public hearing, accusing the zoning officer of a few nasty things and demanded my money back. The supervisors, based on town attorney's advice refused to refund my money.

So $60 later a small claims court case was filed by me. Some weeks later the town attorney via mail offered to settle for $300. I said no deal, see you in court.

I think a month or so later the case was scheduled befor the judge, I and DW show up, in the waiting room the town attorney offers to give me a check for $300. I saind nice, we'll see what the Judge has to say. She is now in sheer panic. The town does not want to have a "public record" airing of the situation.

So we appear before the judge, I plunk, with a loud noise a 3lb black folder on the table. THe judge looks at the attorney and says, are you ready counselor?

Whereupon the counselor holds up the the check she wanted to give me earlier and says, we offer to to refund Mr. ls99's money, he refused. Judge asks me what is the problem with that, I said I want my court fees and costs back as well.

Counselor says I should ask the court to refund the fees.

At this point the judge gets up out of her seat, tugs at her robe a bit, leans forward on the bench with hands widely spread and says to the hapless town lawyer:

Counselor, for your information, the court does not refund fees.
Town lawyer whips out her personal checkbook, asks the court for the amount she should make out the check. The Judge gave her the numbers, she wrote out the check. Handed it to the judge. Judge asked her if is sure this check is good, counselor affirmed.

Judge handed her back the check and asked me if this personal check, along with the Township's check will be satisfactory. I said fine we'll take it.

Judge said there will be norecord since she did not hear arguments on the case itself.

The clerk drew up the papers, DW and I went to the bank cashed the check and headed to a nice restaurant for dinner and drinks.

All told, by the time it was over the township was out of about $5000 in investigations, attorneys fees, engineers reviews before and after issuing the violation, etc.

Moral of the the story, townships should do factual evaluations before issuing a zoning violations, and never ever again mess with ls99. They have since implemented strict procedures for the zoning officer, before she can issue a violation notice. I would have fired her a$$.
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Old 11-30-2012, 04:24 PM   #14
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This is NOT as good as IS99 ....

3 small claims experiances:

1. A CONtractor stiffed me out of a several grand down payment. Got a judgement for all costs (including interest on payments and court costs). He had worked for me for years (much larger jobs ... much more money) then ran into "hard times". So i was able to collect the full sum. The last payment was a small roof job he aggreed to do. Never saw him again.

2. Took a "man of the Lord" (Pastor) to court for collection of back rent. Won. Never saw a cent. Not sure what religion they preach in that strip mall church.

3. Took a Mom (co-signer), son and daughter-in-law to court for back rent. I needed to be on a business trip for mega corp so DW sat in for me. DW agreed to release Mom from responsibility (a mistake). Won. Never saw a cent.

Court costs are resonable (100-200) but COLLECTION is up to you.
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Old 11-30-2012, 04:42 PM   #15
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-It's cheap (<$100?). I had to additionally pay a deputy fee to deliver the notices but you can have them mailed instead.

-Max is $10,000 in TX but this depends on the state.

-It took about a year before it was "heard."

-It was sent to mediation first (landlord/tenant dispute). The defendants decided not to appear (!) so I won by default. They paid.*

*In TX, you can't garnish wages for most judgements or collections. You can, though, put a lien on their real property (e.g., land). If they don't own any, you could maybe issue a cancellation of debt (1099-C) and CC the IRS.

-You can sue corporations. A friend's mom sued a large airline. They flew in a team of lawyers, which didn't impress the judge. The large airline lost.

Also web search the Honda small claims losses.
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Old 11-30-2012, 04:48 PM   #16
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And this wasn't just a 'glitch' - this was an intentional change by the company, that they didn't warn anyone about. There is an angry bunch of users on their forums. Maybe a flurry of people winning in small claims court might get them thinking. And it might get me some remuneration?
If you have the time and the court fee lying around, go for it. They'd have to spend large amounts of money for a lawyer or 3 and fly them to your city. Or, they could just negotiate a settlement and cut you a check, probably with your promise that you won't mention said settlement.
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Old 11-30-2012, 05:12 PM   #17
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My 82 yo MIL just won a small claims judgement. A guy changed lanes and smashed into her car to the tune of $1500. She does not have collision insurance, so in Michigan, all she could collect was $500. The employer of the guy who hit her was initially apologetic and promised to pay the whole repair, which he related to the repair shop. Later, after talking to his lawyer , he backed out of the deal. MIL persisted and he paid just before the court date when he found out that the repair shop owner was going to testify on her behalf. MIL was out the $60 for filing.
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Old 11-30-2012, 05:14 PM   #18
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Your conclusion might be right, but I don't agree with your logic. I got what I paid for originally, and then their update 'broke it'. Then I had to 'fix' it - lots of internet searching, lots of futzing, and it takes ~ 2 HOURS for each back up, another 2 hours to re-load, and re-install the FW, and then some time to test it. And I've lost interim updates, which were probably of some value in stability/performance. They have no procedure for getting interim updates to me.

I actually did manage to get my 'favorites' (about 35 contacts/addresses) re-installed - no thanks to them (TomTom, BTW). I realized I had done a backup on another computer, and was able to find my 'favorites' there (the recent upgrade/backup process overwrote them on my device AND my backup!). Their software doesn't allow you to selectively recover 'favorites', just the whole 'blob'. But much more googling, and I found the file it is stored in, and how to do a plain old file copy to the device, by-passing their SW entirely.

So this was hours and hours of my time to get it back the way it was. If someone broke something of yours, and then you spent many hours researching and fixing it, would you say 'no problem - it works now, no harm done'?

And this wasn't just a 'glitch' - this was an intentional change by the company, that they didn't warn anyone about. There is an angry bunch of users on their forums. Maybe a flurry of people winning in small claims court might get them thinking. And it might get me some remuneration?

-ERD50

I didn't say you did not have a legit beef with the company... I just said that I thought the court would not think so.... and gave a reason why....

Me, I would be as pissed off as you were (are)....
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Old 11-30-2012, 08:21 PM   #19
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I didn't say you did not have a legit beef with the company... I just said that I thought the court would not think so.... and gave a reason why....

Me, I would be as pissed off as you were (are)....
Gotcha. As I understand it, courts think in terms of 'damages'. So now that I have it back to the way it was originally (maybe minus some of the updates), my 'damages' would be the time I spent having to search the web for answers, time with their CS, and the time it took me to install and test all the various steps to get it back to that point.

But can I claim a service tech $/Hr rate for my time? Maybe $50 times maybe 8 hours (which I would all have documented)?

But if the company actually would have to fly people out, or hire a local rep, maybe I have leverage? But then, I would still need to collect.

-ERD50
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Old 11-30-2012, 10:15 PM   #20
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But can I claim a service tech $/Hr rate for my time? Maybe $50 times maybe 8 hours (which I would all have documented)?
Let us know if this works. We can make a fortune the next time Microsoft "upgrades" their MS Office products and then they don't work the way they used to. "Dang, where did the menus go? Anybody know how to turn off the Autoformat in Word?" I remember when Excel had a graphing wizard that really worked.
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