After your small claims trial is over, you may need to get paid or pay what you owe; you may also want to appeal the judgment.
Either a side of a claim may appeal the judge's decision. When you appeal a decision, you ask a higher court to review it for any error. You can appeal a judge's decision. You can't appeal an arbitrator's decision.
Few small claims decisions get appealed, and very few appeals are successful. The appellate court considers only whether substantial justice was done between the parties. The appellate court won't reverse a small claims decision because a technical mistake was made during the hearing.
An attorney can help appeal your small claims decision. However, because the amounts involved in small claims are less than most lawyer fees, the expense of appealing your small claims decision may be greater than the amount awarded. The appealing party must purchase a typed transcript of the hearing for the appellate court to review at additional expense.
If you decide to appeal, file a Notice of Appeal and pay the required fee within 30 days after the judgment is entered. Consult the small claims court clerk for further information.
On notice of an appeal, you should call the small claims court to find out if a bond or an undertaking has been paid. If it hasn't been paid, you can begin to collect your judgment immediately.
A "counterclaim" is a claim filed against the claimant by the defendant. The counterclaim can only be for money. The amount of the counterclaim can't be more than $5,000. Any counterclaim for more than $5,000 is sent to another part of the court or in a different court, such as civil court.
A counterclaim can be made by a defendant within five days after receiving the notice of claim. The defendant may also file a counterclaim on the day of the hearing.
If the defendant files a counterclaim on the day of the hearing and the claimant isn't prepared to defend against the counterclaim, the claimant can ask the judge to postpone the hearing until another day. In some cases, the judge might decide to delay the hearing, even if the claimant doesn't ask for a delay.
If the claimant receives notice of a counterclaim before the date of the hearing, the claimant must be prepared to present his claim and defend against the counterclaim on the day of the hearing.
Adjournments in the small claims court are discouraged and only the judge decides if an adjournment is to be granted.
Dismissals and Default Judgments
If the claimant doesn't appear in court when the small claims case is called, the claim is dismissed. If the defendant doesn't appear, the court will direct an "inquest." The judge or arbitrator will hear the case even though the defendant is not present. If the claimant presents enough evidence to establish a case, a "default judgment" against the defendant is made and the claimant receives the award requested.
Default judgments entered because the defendant didn't appear can be re-opened so the defendant can offer evidence in their defense. A defendant who doesn't appear on the scheduled date and then asks the court to reopen the small claim must have a valid excuse for not appearing.
A small claims court clerk assists in preparing the necessary papers to ask the judge to reopen the case. The small claims court clerk also sets a date when the claimant and the defendant must return to court.
When the claimant and the defendant return to court, the judge decides whether to reopen the case. If the case is reopened, the claimant and the defendant must be ready to present their evidence at that time. However, the judge may decide to postpone the trial to a later date.
Questions for Your Attorney
- Do I need to have an attorney to file an appeal?
- If my case is remanded does that mean I get a new trial?
- How long does it generally take to get the judge's decision by mail if the judgment wasn't announced at the trial?