As a student, you will have to deal with a lot of nonsense coming from all sides: your roommate, your landlord, your cable company. At some point, somebody will likely owe you money and not want to give it back to you. So this is where the Small claims court comes in.
What is the Small claims court?
Small claims court is a special court where disputes are resovled informally. There are no lawyers; just you, the defendant and the judge. As an individual, you may not sue for more than $7,500 in Small Claims Court. If you want to sue for more, you have to go to the superior court.
How do I sue someone in Small claims Court?
1) Go to the courthouse of the geographic area of where the defendant lives or where the incident about which you are suing occurred. Locate the small claims filing window where you can get the forms and information necessary to file. The clerk may be able to assist you if you have questions.
2) The defendant must know about your lawsuit. This has to be done according to the rules or your case may be dismissed or delayed. The defendant needs to get a copy of the claim. You cannot give it to them yourself. Ask the court clerk what options are available for you.
3) Once at the small claims trial, you should be prepared to plead your case to the judge clearly and briefly. Try to have the facts written down with dates and times. You also should bring with you to the small claims trial all the documents supporting your case (the original and 2 copies if possible), as well as the witnesses (if any) for your side. The judge can make the decision while you are in the small claims court or s/he may “take it under advisement” and inform you of the small claims decision by mail.
If the defendant loses, s/he may appeal the small claims decision. The plaintiff, however, may not appeal if s/he loses. The judgment form will advise you of some of the special rules regarding small claims court appeal.
If you have a judgment in your favor, you may use small claims court procedures to collect the judgment. Ask the small claims court clerk about what you can do to get your money.
Note: When you are in small claims court, only address the judge and only talk when you are asked a question. Do NOT get into a shouting match with the defendant; it would not help your case.
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