Generally, the magistrate's decision is announced at the end of a small claims trial. However, sometimes the magistrate 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. If a party isn't pleased with the decision, there are several options available, including filing motions or an appeal to challenge the court's action. Know what to expect when the trial's over.
Motion for a New Trial
If the parties feel the magistrate has made an error, they have 5 days from the date the judgment is signed by the magistrate to file for a rehearing with the clerk of the court. The motion must specifically state the reason a new trial is requested.
The court rules on the motion by deciding whether or not there're grounds for a new hearing. The court examines the motion and either grants a new hearing with notice or denies the motion.
An unsatisfied party has the right to appeal a judgment to the circuit court. However, the procedures for appealing a judgment are complex so it's best to consult an experienced attorney. Also, detailed instructions for filing a small claims appeal are available from the clerk of the court.
The circuit court reviews the law used to decide the case. It won't review the facts of the case. The right of appeal from a judgment exists for 30 days after the denial of a motion for a new trial.
South Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure
The South Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure govern the court's review of orders and judgments. You can find the South Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure on The Supreme Court of South Carolina Web Site.
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
- A prior judgment on which the judgment is based has been reversed or otherwise vacated
- It is no longer equitable or fair for the judgment to be applied
It can be hard to tell if your situation would support a motion for relief. An attorney can help you review your case and decide what steps to take.
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?
Related Resources on Lawyers.comsm
- Start the process with our South Carolina Small Claims Worksheet
- Next in the Small Claims series: Collecting a Judgment in South Carolina
- Success In Small Claims Court
- Small Claims Court Terms
- Defending A Small Claims Case
- Visit our Small Claims Court Forum for more help.