Sunday, August 30, 2009


by David McCarthy

Small claims court is a good place to be a plaintiff, if you must be a plaintiff at all.

It is a fast, simple, low-cost way to get a decision on a claim for money only that does not exceed $5,000, exclusive of interest and costs. Simplified pleading is permitted, discovery is prohibited except by court order, and generally there will be a trial on the date due for the defendant to respond to the summons.

The advantages are so great that it is worth considering ways to cope with some of the restrictions and requirements of the procedure.

One, a corporation which is a plaintiff must be represented by an attorney no matter how small its claim my be, but individuals may represent themselves no matter how great their claims may be. So a corporation might consider selling and assigning its claim to an individual, who can elect to proceed with or without counsel. The assignment should be in writing.

Two, when one plaintiff has claims against one defendant that aggregate more than $5,000.00, it is well to consider filing the claims in separate counts or even in separate suits.

Three, for those claims in excess of $5,000.00 that cannot be separated into counts there is no law against praying for the $5,000.00 maximum and waiving the right to the excess.

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