I never dreamed I would be a defendant in a Small Claims Court suit, but it happened to me over a water spill. Fortunately, we were able to settle out of court and the case was dismissed without prejudice, at the 11th hour. Here’s what I wish I had known before facing this stressful event.
If someone threatens you with Small Claims Court, pay attention.
I knocked over a large glass of water, which spilled on the table the Plaintiff’s computer was sitting on. I offered to pay to replace or repair the computer. I became suspicious when she told me that the value of her computer was $3,000.00, and I went online and priced her computer at just over half that. I expressed my concern. She didn’t communicate with me for two months. Then I received an email instructing me to pay $1330 for repairs.
I asked if she would consider paying half. She threatened me with Small Claims Court. I agreed to pay all but I wanted to see a receipt. It was written to someone else, so I asked for more information. I heard nothing until I got the summons.
Make sure your summons is served legally and properly, with all the necessary attachments.
If you are ever taken to court, there should be a response form and receipt attached. If you are not there to be served, another adult over 18 can receive them for you. The server gave the papers to my 14 year old daughter, without the necessary attachments. This would have likely been enough to get the case dismissed if we had actually gone to trial.
Keep your head and get all the information you need. Do it quickly.
Small Claims Court will not swallow you up into the earth and end your life. Take a deep breath. Read the whole document to find out what your options are. After you’ve calmed down, get more information. If you want to counter-sue, there is a time limit.
Understand that it is not against the law to be a jerk.
No matter how mad you are, you can’t let your reactions cloud your judgment. The judge doesn’t care if the plaintiff was uncooperative. The judge will look at the law and make a decision.
The only advice to listen to is legitimate legal advice.
My friends said that it sounded like I had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and fallen victim to an opportunistic con artist. I was lucky that a friend of mine knew an attorney who was happy to talk with me. She gave me the facts.
The Defendant has more to lose than the Plaintiff.
I had no interest in fighting. I was willing to pay. I just needed a proper receipt. I got it days before our court date. I signed an agreement online and was shocked when she still took me to court. She wanted the agreement that I had signed written into a judgment.
If that had happened, that judgment would remain on my record and possibly affect my credit. When this was explained to her the Plaintiff agreed to dismiss the case.
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