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Small claims court

Discussion in 'Anything goes' started by JackReacher, May 11, 2015.

  1. JackReacher

    JackReacher Well-Known Member

    Anyone here ever been to small claims court? I may be going soon (as a plaintiff), and I'm curious to hear your stories and any lessons learned. Thanks.
  2. RecoveringJournalist

    RecoveringJournalist Well-Known Member

    I went once about 18 years ago. A teenager hit my car and I tried to be a good guy about it and just said "Don't worry about it." My car was old and it was just one more dent. Plus the damage to her car was far worse.

    Six months later, I found out I was being sued for $1,800. The girl told her parents that I had backed into her. They came in with pictures and were all ready to go. I had gotten rid of the car a few months earlier and I had nothing to prove my side of it.

    She even came in with a lawyer, which I think is not allowed. He was there "to advise the family"

    I got crushed. Judge was a dick.

    I flipped out when I lost and walked over to the parents and said, "Your daughter is a fucking liar. Good luck collecting."

    The next day I found out my wages were being garnished.

    Not my proudest moment, definitely a learning moment.

    My cousin, an attorney, told me later that a lot of small claims court judges have a bit of a complex about it and it is not uncommon for them to be complete dicks.
  3. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    If you were right, good for you. It needed to be said in public.

    You should find her on facebook and she how she is doing. :)
  4. Baron Scicluna

    Baron Scicluna Well-Known Member

    I told this on another thread, but I sued my ex-landlord when he refused to return my security deposit. When we were leaving, we told him we could do a walk through of the place. He said we didn't have to do it and he'd be sending the deposit back in a week or two.

    A month passed, no deposit. I make several calls, to no answer. Finally I get him, and he says that we owe him money, because the bathroom floor was damaged (which it had been before we moved in), and he claimed we hadn't given him proper notice in leaving, so he had to use a real estate company to get another tenant, and wanted another month's rent, to boot. He said he was trying to be nice and not bother us, but if we wanted to keep arguing, he'd see us in court. I said we'd see him there.

    I looked on a bunch of sites, gathered up info on tenant laws and whatnot, watched Judge Judy and the People's Court a bunch, learned that we should get as much proof as we could, and hoped for the best.

    Wife and I go to court, dressed in our best. He shows up in a T-shirt and looking like he hadn't showered in a week. I show him all the pics we'd taken when we moved in, and moved out. I showed the judge the typed letter that I had the landlord sign acknowledging our move-out date.

    I even mentioned the state law on triple damages that could happen if a landlord purposely didn't return the deposit. The judge looked surprised that I knew this, and patiently explained that I would have needed to go to state court if I had wanted that. Meanwhile, the landlord had nothing, and the judge even yelled at him once for not having any real evidence.

    Unlike the TV court shows, the decision didn't come there. We waited a month, the letter came, and we won both our suit, and the counter suit. Very satisfying moment. Even more satisfying, a few weeks later, when the check came from the idiot landlord.

    Lessons learned: yes, like the court shows, you need as much evidence as you can get. Written statements, receipts, pictures, video, etc.

    And I think it depends on the state, but in my state, it was allowed to have a lawyer at these things. We were lucky that we had a judge who was pretty cool about the whole thing.
  5. RecoveringJournalist

    RecoveringJournalist Well-Known Member

    Oh, I was right. But I still should not have lost my shit the way I did.

    The attorney and family friend spoke for the daughter who would just kind of nod and look at the floor when he was talking. All I could do was basically say, "That's not how it happened and she's lying." I knew as it was happening that I had zero chance of winning.
  6. DeskMonkey1

    DeskMonkey1 Active Member

    Did you appeal? Did they not do a forensic's test to see who actually hit who?

    It's reasons like that I refuse to accept a "don't worry about it" when there's a fender bender. Unless I'm at fault, of course. :)
  7. old_tony

    old_tony Well-Known Member

    How do they win without any actual evidence? I assume there was no police report, no possible physical evidence from your car (since you'd gotten rid of it). So what could they have produced for evidence?
  8. ifilus

    ifilus Active Member


    Found this out the hard way.
  9. RecoveringJournalist

    RecoveringJournalist Well-Known Member

    They had pictures of her car. There was a lot more damage to her car than there was to mine.

    Also, when I'm standing there looking put off and pissed off, it might not have been the most believable defense when I'm saying, "I didn't file a report because there wasn't much damage to my car, she was crying and I was trying to be a nice guy." Also, I had gotten rid of the car, which looked really bad. The attorney made reference to that as being "very convenient" and while I didn't say it out loud, I'm quite sure I mouthed, "Oh, fuck you..." Who knows if the judge saw that, but considering how many things were going my way that day, it wouldn't have surprised me if the judge saw me.

    She's standing there looking sympathetic with both her parents and an attorney and I'm standing there checking my watch and looking pissed because I had a baseball game I had to cover.

    It was a good and expensive learning experience. If you have to appear in court, whether you're 100 percent innocent or 100 percent guilty, be on your best behavior. "Yes, your honor... No, your honor..."
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