Generally, the judge's decision will be announced at the end of a small claims trial. The judgment will specify which side prevailed and if money damages are being awarded and the amount of those damages.
Sometimes the judge will want to take additional time to review the evidence or research case law before entering a judgment. When this occurs, the parties will receive a copy of the judgment in the mail.
After judgment is entered, the plaintiff becomes the judgment creditor and the defendant becomes the judgment debtor.
Judgment Debtor's Options Prior to Paying Judgment
If the court awards judgment to the plaintiff, the judgment debtor may do one of the following before paying the judgment:
- Appeal the district court's judgment
- File a motion for a new trial
- File a motion to change the judgment
Appeal the Judgment
If either party is dissatisfied with the decision of the court, the case can be appealed. The appealing party must do the following within 30 days after the entry of judgment:
- File a notice of appeal with the clerk of the county court
- Pay the clerk of the county court the fee for filing cases in the district court
- Deposit with the clerk of the county court a cash bond or a surety bond approved by the court in the amount of $50
The district court judge will make a decision on the appeal by reviewing the record of the county court case. If you are filing an appeal without a lawyer, you must complete all the necessary forms on your own. The Clerk of the District Court can't help you prepare any legal documents and can provide only limited information about the process.
Costs of the appeal generally will be charged to the losing party. You will also have to pay for photocopying the county court file which is to be filed with the district court.
The person who appeals may prevent the other side from collecting their judgment until the appeal has been decided, but it is not done automatically by filing an appeal. To do so an additional bond called a Supersedeas Bond must be filed with the clerk of the county court within 30 days after the entry of judgment. In cases involving a money judgment, the supersedeas bond must be in the amount of the judgment, plus costs and estimated interest. In cases involving a judgment for personal property, the bond shall be in an amount at least double the value of the property. If no supersedeas bond is filed, the party who won in small claims may start the collection process as soon as the judgment is entered, even though an appeal is pending.
The district court judge will make a decision on the appeal by reviewing the record of the county court case. No new evidence or witnesses may be submitted. Both sides may choose to be represented by an attorney during the entire appeal process. If you choose not to be represented by an attorney, you should contact the Clerk of the District Court about two weeks after the appeal is filed to determine what steps, if any, you need to take to pursue your appeal in the district court.
If you are unable to pay for the costs of the appeal, you may file a Financial Affidavit and request that the judge allow you to proceed In Forma Pauperis.
Motion for New Trial
You have ten days after the court makes an adverse judgment to file a motion for a new trial. Generally, requests for a new trial are denied but if the court does grant your motion, you will receive a summons to a new trial.
Motion to Change Judgment
You must file a motion to alter or amend a judgment within ten days of receipt of that judgment. You must file a motion to revise a judgment within 30 days of receipt of that judgment.
Payment of Judgment
If you are the judgment debtor and you are not planning on filing an appeal or a post-judgment motion, you should make payment arrangements with the judgment creditor or the judgment creditor's attorney right away. If you don't pay, the judgment creditor may begin enforcement procedures such as:
- Interrogatories about location of assets (questions requiring written answers)
- Oral examination about location of assets (requires a court appearance)
- Writ of Execution to order the levying or seizure and sale of goods
- Garnishment of property
- Garnishment of wages
Questions for Your Attorney
- I did not receive a final judgment at my trial nor in the mail and it's been 30 days since my small claims trial. What should I do?
- What happens if the defendant doesn't appear at the trial?
- How long does it generally take to get the judge's decision by mail if the judgment wasn't announced at the trial?