Generally, the judge's decision is announced at the end of a small claims trial. However, sometimes the judge wants to take additional time to review the evidence or research case law before entering a final judgment. When this occurs, the parties receive a copy of the final judgment in the mail. A party to the small claims lawsuit may be unhappy with the judgment and want to appeal.
Right to Appeal
An unsatisfied party has the right to appeal a judgment to the district court. The right of appeal from a judgment exists for 10 days. The clerk of court can give the unsatisfied party a notice of appeal form that must be filed with the clerk to start the appeal process. Either party can ask for a jury trial on an appeal. After the notice of appeal is filed, a hearing is scheduled. Notice of the date and time of the hearing will be mailed to both parties.
The hearing on appeal will be assigned to a different judge and is more formal than the trial hearing. The court will treat the lawsuit as a new case and not look for mistakes in the first hearing.
Although parties may not have attorneys in a small claims trial hearing, attorneys may represent parties on appeal. If a party decides to represent himself on appeal, he'll be held to the same standards as an attorney.
Correcting an Error
Either party may file a motion requesting the small claims court to correct a clerical mistake in a judgment, order or other parts of the record. The motion may be made at any time.
Motion for Relief
Either party may file a motion requesting relief from a final judgment, order or proceeding for these reasons:
- Mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect
- Newly discovered evidence
- Fraud, misrepresentation or other misconduct
- The judgment is void
- The judgment has been satisfied, released or discharged
- Any other reason justifying relief from the operation of the judgment
Questions for Your Attorney
- Is the appeals process expensive, and how often are appeals filed in small claims cases?
- Could you review my small claims case and tell me whether I should file any motions for relief from judgment?
- What is newly discovered evidence? Can I base a motion for relief on newly discovered evidence only if it wasn't available to me at the time of trial?